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.

Six Months Later

John died six months ago.  June 13, 2016 the life I knew ended.  I’m learning to move on.

I miss John.  I miss talking to him, sharing things with him, knowing he always had my back.  But what I miss the most about him is the way he smiled at me when I’d come home.  He would look up at me and give me this half smile and it would make my stomach flip even after 35 years of marriage.  In that moment I could always tell he loved me and he was happy to see me.  I miss that smile.

I believe I made the right decision about selling the condo.  I know John would have kept it but he loved going there because he was comfortable there.  He would spend hours sitting on the balcony reading and watching the golfers.  He liked having his own things there and sleeping in a comfortable bed.  He was not happy traveling.  I think though he would understand why I am selling.  I know I’ll have second thoughts and regrets but in the long run it is the right decision for me.  I know it.

I find it overwhelming having to handle everything on my own.  Not just the big things but the little things too.  John was so good to me.  He would fill my car with gas or just bring me a bowl of ice cream (he did love his ice cream).  He would take the garbage out at the the condo and take my car to have the oil changed.  We also split the office work.  We worked on tax returns together, he’d choose the mortgages we would fund and I’d do the bookkeeping.  We were the perfect team.  I took good care of him too.  I’d remind him to take his insulin, I took care of him the best I could.  Not just when he was dying, I always took good care of him.  It made both of us feel good to do things for each other.  Now I am alone and struggling.

I have been thinking about what I want to do in the future.  I don’t want to continue working with the clients. I should never have signed up with Simon to continue working with the clients.  Simon isn’t reliable enough and it is stressing me out.  I should have just told the clients that I was wrapping everything up when John died but I didn’t.  First, John wanted me to continue with the personal tax clients and secondly I thought I was helping Simon.  But I’m not qualified to do all these tax returns.  I would rather get a normal job than have to deal with all these clients all the time.  But I’ve told them I would take care of them.  I need to figure out a way out of this mess.  I will continue taking care of the family’s returns but not everyone else.  I only have two corporate clients to worry about and I can either have them work with Simon or go to another accounting firm.

I wish last April that John had not encouraged me and the clients to continue our relationship.  I don’t like answering the phone.  I don’t feel qualified to answer the questions they ask me.  John wanted to make sure i had something to do when he was gone but he shouldn’t have decided my future for me.  I can easily get a part time job and make just as much money and have less stress.  I need to move toward that life.  The accounting practice was John’s life and not mine.  I only got involved when he opened his own office.  I’ll blog about that story another time.  But right now, I realize it is time to give this up.

I need to carve out my new place in the world.  I need to decide my own direction and my own life.  I need to leave my old life behind and move forward.  I need to make my own mistakes.

I am really starting over.

Why Do I Write?

Someone asked me the other day how I’m dealing with my grief.  They were trying to get me to go see a grief counselor and I replied, “I’m seeing myself.”  I find that writing about my thoughts helps me to focus and I am hoping that when I reread some of the older posts I’ll see that I’m getting stronger.  I know in the beginning I felt incredible despair and blackness and felt life was hopeless.  I have better days now, and yes, I can say “days” instead of “moments”.  Now I still cry, sob actually, but I no longer have such an overwhelming desire to die.  I am discovering, and surrounding myself, with the people that want to be with me.  Family and friends that share in my grief and help me find a new normal for myself.  I am hurt by the disappearance of some people that I thought were concerned for me, people I thought that would be there for me during difficult times but they have either totally faded from my life or flit in and out without regard to my feelings.  But I am also surprised by how some people have swept into my life and put their arms around me to comfort me and give me strength.  They are my angels.