I hate it when people tell me they are sorry I lost my husband.  I didn’t lose him; he died.  He is gone.  It is not like I can find him under a cushion or in a closet somewhere.  He is not lost.  I am lost.  Not him.

I have been very busy this past month.  The main floor renovations are almost complete.  The rooms have been painted, the hardwood is laid, new furniture is in and it is looking good.  They will replace the gas fireplace this week and I have someone coming to hang the light fixture in my dining room.  We filled two dumpsters and a third one is almost full.  I think by Sunday the main floor of my house will be finished with the exception of the new windows.

A friend of mine hired me to help at his office while his bookkeeper was on vacation.  I worked for two weeks and really enjoyed it.  I bought some new “work” clothes and it felt good going out.  I really don’t think I was “needed” there but they certainly made me feel welcome.  It was a nice change of pace and for those hours I mostly concentrated on work and not John.  I could feel him with me in a very supportive way.

I still don’t sleep well.  I sleep on a tiny edge of my bed (on my husband’s side) and the rest of the bed is covered in clothes.  I’m going through his clothes and mine and donating bags and bags to Value Village.  Most of my clothes are dated and I have so many of them that I will never need to buy new ones again. But I can’t bear to get rid of John’s Hawaiian shirts and his Jimmy Buffet ones.  They are John.  I’ve been doing laundry and every dirty shirt of his that I find I cry into and try and smell him just one more time. I hold his shirts and try and feel him.  I miss him so very much.

I finally broke down and called my doctor on Friday to ask him for sleeping pills.  Surprise … surprise he is on holidays until the middle of October.  Is this a sign from John that I shouldn’t use sleeping pills?  I need more sleep though because when I’m tired I’m more emotional.  I went out today and bought some over the counter sleeping medication and I hope that it will help me get at least 7 hours sleep tonight.  With sleep I’ll heal.  I’ll get stronger every day.

Over the past three months I have thought a great deal about death.  I feel guilty that I am alive and John isn’t.  He should be here enjoying his retirement.  If there was any way we could have traded places I would have gladly done it for him.  He worked so hard his entire life that he deserved to spend some golden years.  He took such good care of me and the rest of the family that he truly deserved to be the one that lived.

I also understand how people can die of a broken heart.  I think of dying all the time now.  I  admit I thought of suicide.  I feel so alone and broken that death would be welcome but I have to wait until it is my time.  I never believed in an afterlife until John got ill.  One day in the hospital John was looking off into the distance.  I asked him what he was looking at and he looked at me with genuine surprise.  He answered that my dad was there.  I could see him smiling.  He nodded and then said my dad was leaving (to walk down the lane way) and he’d be back.  John didn’t remember telling my daughter and I this but we had many talks over the next weeks.  He told me that he knew there was something beyond the life that we have here.  He promised he would always be near me.  He told me that he would be the wind blowing past me, that I would feel him if I could quiet my mind.  I see him when I dream (which is very rare now).  Now I have to be strong and rebuild my life.  I need to be good so that when it is my time to die that I will be reunited with John.  We will spend eternity together.  I believe this with my whole heart.

So I have decided I’m going to start new tomorrow.  I’m going to eat better, sleep better, move more, listen to happy music and be productive.  I’m going to try and heal my heart, never forgetting John but working towards being a person that he would be proud of.  Then someday we will be together again and spend forever united.

Forever and all ways.



Shattered Happiness – Part 3

One week left in tax season and John is home from the hospital.  Clients are coming to the house to see him and are shocked at how thin he has become.  When I say clients I should say friends because that is who they are.  They have been part of our lives for over 30 years.  John rarely lost a client.  Sometimes they might go to another accountant thinking they would save money but then they would come back because they knew John always gave good service and sage advice.

John was not strong enough to go upstairs to our bedroom so he slept on the sofa in the living room.  We now had a nurse that came daily to change his IV bag and give him medication.  He was now in palliative care.  She was awesome. She explained to me how to give him his morphine, codiene and other pain killers.  John always had a problem with taking pills so everything was injected into a port.  He had a separate port for pain medication, one for his antibiotics and one for miscellaneous drugs.  Every morning he got up and got dressed so people thought he was ok.  The doorbell would start ringing around 10 and people would arrive to talk to him.  Most would cry at the door and hug me and tell me to stay strong.  Stay strong.  Everyone would say that to me.  Inside I was dying but outside I was smiling and telling people that we were going to fight this disease.

I worked hard trying to get the work out and take care of John.  He was weak and I’d try and feed him several times a day.  He needed to be walked to the bathroom and his medication had to be given to him several times a day. He was sleeping on the sofa and I was right next to him on the love seat.

May 1st came and the nurse and I finally talked John into getting a hospital bed put in the family room.  He was very worried that people would see the bed.  But once the bed was in he was happy.  I would go in to see him and I’d say “shove a bum chum” and he’d move over.  He’d hold me, we would talk and I’d just listen to his heartbeat.  I would sob in his arms and he would hold me telling me that he’d always be with me.  He said if there was any way he would be besides me the rest of my life.

John had a few corporate clients and they still needed to be serviced but he was not strong enough to sit at a desk more than a few minutes at a time.  I worked as hard as I could writing up the records of the client and getting their year ends done.  He would review them and then I would get the tax returns done and print and assemble everything.  He would meet with the client and I’d have to do most of the talking.  He was exhausted easily.

I didn’t want to leave John for a minute.  The nurse kept asking if I would take a personal care worker in but I wanted to take care of John myself.  He would shave using an electric razor, I’d bathe him, change his clothes and take care of him.  I was sleeping on the love seat near him.  I just wanted to spend every moment with him.  But he just slept more and more and ate less and less.  I started having panic attacks and he would calm me.  He kept telling me I’d be ok and that I was strong and could manage on my own.  He would go over things with me, how to run our business, how to take care of our finances, what he wanted me to do in the future.  All he wanted was for me to be happy.  I was his primary concern.

During his last few weeks he had lots of time to talk to our children.  John had two daughters from his first marriage, Julie and Laura and we had two of our own, Amanda and Adam.  Everyone came as often as they could.  Adam actually still lives at home with us.

My nephew Stephen came every weekend and visited.  Sometimes he just sat in the same room with John so I could have time to run some errands, take a shower or simply go to the bathroom.

May was hard.  I was exhausted, sleeping only a few hours at a time and listening for whenever John needed me.  I was afraid to sleep.  I could see John’s life slipping away.  If there had been any way we could switch places I would gladly have done it with him.

John ate less and less.  He’d have a little rice pudding now and then and some canned fruit.  His belly was huge and full of fluid.  He hated looking in the mirror.  To me he was still John but all he could see was a gaunt old man.  To me he was my handsome husband.

One day John woke up around 4:30 am and had a to pee.  I helped him into the bathroom and then went to get his needles ready.  While I was getting the medication out of the fridge I heard him fall. I yelled for my son and he came running.  He was able to get John up and we got him back to bed.  He cut his forehead but seemed fine.  He asked me for a bowl of Special k.  He hadn’t eaten solid food like cereal in weeks.  I was praying that we would have a good day together.  Maybe he could get stronger.  Maybe … Maybe.

That bowl of cereal was the last food John ate.  He stopped eating and drinking that day.  When the nurse came she told me not to offer him food or drink, to wait and see if he would ask for it.  He was still lucid, he was still talking to me and he was still my man.  I told the children that John would not last many more days.  My nephew Stephen arrived immediately.  He was there for the long term now … He was there to help take John to the bathroom, helped me with everything I needed.  I would never have been able to function those last weeks without Stephen.  He was my rock.

John went almost a week without food or water.  But he was still peeing.  This confused the nurse and the palliative doctor.  Where was this fluid coming from? We figured it must be coming from his belly fluid.  He drifted in and out of consciousness.   By the weekend he was becoming more and more agitated.  He would insist to walk to the bathroom but his heels had huge pressure sores on them even though I constantly changed his position in the bed.   My heart was breaking.  I didn’t want John to die but I knew it was time for him to pass on.

On Monday morning John woke up very agitated.  He wante to get dressed and go to work.  He had an errand to run that was urgent.  He was difficult to handle.  I knew this was his turning point.  When the nurse came it was decided it was time to sedate him for his own good.  I curled up with John one last time by saying “shove a bum chum” and cried in his arms until he slept.  And I stayed listening to him breathe.

I didn’t leave John’s side that last week.  I did finally relent to having a personal care worker come to teach me how to care for him now that he was no longer conscious.   John was barely breathing.  Stephen and I would wake up several times a night because John took so long between breaths.  We were both sure he passed away several times that week.

On Sunday Stephen went home.  He had to go to Halifax for work and we both knew there was nothing that could be done for John now.  John would have wanted Stephen to go.   I slept holding John’s hand that night.

On Monday afternoon the personal care worker came and we bathed John and made him comfortable.  Laura just arrived and Julie had taken Adam out to pick up some groceries.  I let the PSW out the door and sat in the front room with Laura for a moment.  I heard a sound and ran in to check on John.  He opened his eyes and looked at me  as I took his hand … I called for Laura and I told her I think he just passed.  He took one last breath and died.

Earlier that day I put my Fitbit on John to see what his heart was doing.  I was surprised to see it was heart was beating quickly and the nurse explained it was working hard to keep his body going.  A couple of hours after John passed away my Fitbit died (without warning).  It shouldn’t have been out of battery because it was fully charged the day before.  I charged it up and looked at my heart rate and realized it recorded the moment my heart broke.  John’s heart rate and my heart rate were almost the same.  Two hearts were broken.






Shattered Happiness – Part 2

After receiving the devastating diagnosis while at Princess Margaret hospital in Toronto we headed home.  I cried all the way home from Toronto and my husband just kept holding my hand reassuring me that I’d be ok.  That I’d be okay … Not him.  He was so calm, so loving and so supportive.  I asked him .. What do you want to do?  Is there anything we can do now that you have always wished to do?  He just smiled that lopsided smile of his at me and said we have always done whatever we wanted to do … He was quite happy just to spend time with me.

We got home and the family doctor called saying he received the orders from Princess Margaret that a stent needed to be inserted as soon as possible.  He told us the specialist would contact us the next day and it would likely be done on the Friday. We waited.

On Friday morning I contact the specialist’s office since we had not heard from them.  The nurse said the specialist was aware of the orders but wanted to see us the following Wednesday and he would decide when the stent would be insterted.  I called Princess Margaret and they told us to go to the hospital’s emergency ward and tell them to call Princess Margaret directly for orders.  We went in at 10:30 and sat there until 5 pm.  At that time a doctor came in and told us he was unable to get the operating room to do the procedure due to budget cuts.  We had to return on Monday at 6 am but he’d do it then.

We went back on Monday and sat there.  At 11 am the Doctor came out and told us he had been bumped by that specialist and that we were to return the next day.  At this point John was turning yellow.

Please remember the clock is counting down and these were our “quality of life” days.

We returned at 6 am on Tuesday morning and the specialist himself announced he’d be doing the procedure.  He failed.  He told us that they would try again in the afternoon going in through John’s back.  That failed.  Apparently the tumour had grown and was squeezing the gall bladder making it difficult to insert the stent.

They had to admit John that day into the hospital. Neither of us were happy about this as it was taking time away from us being together.  Plus it was tax season.  John desperately wanted to have one last tax season.  He loved his clients and wanted to be able to see all of them during this time.

Wednesday the specialist tried again and failed.  He reassured me it would be done the next day because he had “slashed” at the tumour loosening its grip on the organs.  John was getting yellower by the moment (I told him he started to look like a Simpson’s character) and he was tired.

On Thursday the doctor we saw in emergency originally successfully inserted the stent.  If only he had been allowed to do the procedure a week earlier!

The specialist released John from the hospital on the Friday morning saying everything was good.

John was feeling good and talked to several clients on the Friday.  His only complaint was he felt a tightness across his belly.  Other than that he was his old self.

The next day we worked in our basement office together on tax returns.  In the afternoon the Blue Jays were playing so he went upstairs to watch the game while I continued to work.  About an hour later I heard a thud.  I thought he was trying to get my attention so that I’d come upstairs to see a particular play between the teams.  When I got upstairs he was on the floor, feverish and unconscious.  I yelled for my son and called 911.

The ambulance came and within minutes the paramedic announced John was in septic shock.  They rushed him to the hospital and his temperature was over 105 degrees.  When we got there they put us in a little room and left us there.  They gave me a cloth and a bucket of water to keep him cool with (there was an ice machine just outside the room) and then basically ignored us for 24 hours while they grew the culture from his blood.

John was so ill.  He was burning to touch and his sugar levels were out of control.  I had to go out every four hours to ask them to check his blood.  I didn’t want to leave him for a minute since I was afraid he’d fall or something.  My son would come to relieve me so I could get some food for us or just to let me stretch my legs.  I was exhausted but refused to leave John.

At one point John opened his eyes and looked at me and asked why I was there.  I replied because he was ill.  He said, “go home, there are tax returns to do.”  I said no because I wanted to be with him.  He became quite stern, looking at me and saying, “honey, this is what we do … Now go do it … We serve our clients”.  So I packed up, went over to the hospital cafeteria and got a tea and came back.  When I walked back in the room I told him I’d just returned from working on the tax returns and was finished.  He believed me.

Finally a doctor came in and gave us the results.  Apparently … Big announcement here … John was in SEPTIC SHOCK.  Really?  Everyone knew that by the point.  Then the doctor starts mumbling and was quite uneasy as he asked questions like, well .. “If we found you on the floor .. What would you like us to do?”, “if your heart stops, what should we do?” We were so confused and said this is just an infection, please treat it and he ran out saying he’d get another doctor to talk to us.  He kept mumbling asking us for our yellow file. We had no idea what the yellow file was all about.

The doctor he sent in was from the infectious control unit.  He first apologized for the infection saying we should never have been sent home without antibiotics.  He stated the hospital tries to stay clean but it is a hotbed of germs and disease and they can’t stay on top of it.  He told us over and over again that John should never have been sent home after gut surgery without antibiotics.  He explained to us that for the rest of John’s expected life he would need to be hooked up to an IV with antibiotics in it.  So much for quality of life.

At this point it was Sunday night and they admitted John to the cancer wing until they could get the infection under control. He got settled into the room and they were bombarding him with antibiotics so I went home to work on tax returns.

For the next four days John fought the infection.  The ass-monkey of a specialist had the nerve to come to the room on Monday and tell John that he was fine and was to be released Tuesday.  I flipped out when I heard this as John was not well and I knew I couldn’t handle him at home yet.  He was confused and weak.  I went to see John’s nurse and he explained to me that specialist had no standing on that floor (since it was dedicated to cancer patients only) and that John would not be released for several days.

By this time the word was out about John’s illness.  There was a constant stream of visitors during the daytime and phone calls at the house inquiring about him.  Clients showed up at the house sobbing, telling me how John saved them in one way or another.  John was a quiet man, his clients would talk and talk and he would just listen and then at the end he would offer some sage advice.  John would find a way out of the mess for the client and all would end up ok.

I was exhausted.  I was at the hospital as much as possible and then working on the tax returns during the rest of the time.  In the evening I would go to the hospital and say “shove a bum chum” and John would move over and hold me while I cried or napped.  He would just look at me and tell me everything would be ok.  He said I was strong, said I’d be alright and said he would always be with me.

John was not a religious man.  He believed in a higher place but not in organized religion.  We were both raised Roman Catholics but the church didn’t accept us as we were both married previously.  As a result churches were not part of our lives.  But he did believe there was something after death.  He accepted his death.  He felt no anger towards the doctors who misdiagnosed him, felt no anger towards the hospital and never once had the “why me” time.  He just accepted the illness like he did everything else in his life.

One day while I was recovering in the hospital from the septic shock my daughter Amanda and I were sitting in his hospital room talking to him.  He kept looking just past us and I asked him what he was looking at.  He smiled at us and said “your dad is here” and he just kept talking to us.  Amanda started to cry but John just kept talking like nothing was out of the ordinary.  Then suddenly he said, “oh your dad is leaving for now .. He is going down that lane”.  I knew then John was not afraid to die.

On Friday, April 22nd the hospital released John and we drove home.  He was quiet in the car.  I asked him what he was thinking and he said he knew it was the last time he’d be in the car.  He wanted to take it all in.  I squeezed his hand and through my tears drove the rest of the way home.



And When I Die …

I want the people who love me to be able to say, “oh she lived a wacky, loving, happy life”.

When I was growing up my favourite aunt was considered “eccentric”.  I loved going to her place.  She lived in an old farm-house in a small village outside a small town.  She was larger than life, loud, flamboyant and creative.  When I was small I would go and explore her house while the family would visit.  There were secret passageways between the walls, I spent hours creeping along the walls and finding new passageways.  As I got older I spent more and more time in her company and I would listen to her stories about faeries living in the trees, of how we should treat nature and her religious beliefs.  She believed she was a modern-day Druid.

When my daughter was born I would take her up to the farm with me.  My aunt was a master weaver and she was teaching me how to spin.  We would take the freshly shorn wool, carded it, spun it and died it together while my daughter played beside us.  I loved those afternoons.  I knew people who my aunt was eccentric, crazy, wacky but I thought she was wonderful.  Her home was a drop in centre for all sorts of people, artists, gays, cerebral people … it was like a melting pot.  Once my son was  born it became difficult for me to go visit there anymore.

My aunt’s funeral was an event.  Her ex-husband was the host.  It was packed with all sorts of people.  My mother clucked and clucked … by this time she and her sister hadn’t spoken to each other for years.  I mourned the light that had left this earth.

So this is the long way around to say I want to be that kind of person.  I want my creative juices to flow, I want to live a fun life.  My life has become boring for the past twenty years.  Work consumed me. I had some many dreams and they went by the wayside.  I wanted to design jewellery, create glass creations but there just wasn’t any time.  I lost so much time and I want it back.

So now it is time to fly kites, slay dragons, rekindle my passions and embrace my inner wackiness.  There is no more “tomorrow” … time is running out.

I want to make a difference in someone’s life and change my own.  Help me.  Give me any advice you have!

Bucket List

I have decided this is a good time to start my bucket lost. I have already crossed off many things on my bucket list (such as touching Uluru) so this is for moving forward. This post will constantly evolve and be updated. Once I complete an item I will bold it and continue working on my list until I die.

My list is (in no particular order):

Learn a new language. For some reason I have always wanted to learn Italian or Spanish. I would like to be able to have a casual conversation in another language.

I would like to take cooking lessons, either in person or online, so I can make extraordinary meals.

I want to start a cookbook blog of favourite family recipes.

I would like to learn how to play chess. This will help my brain as I age.

I want to learn CPR.

I would like to see a real iceberg.

I would like to visit the British Museum.

I would like to go to the Dali Museum.

I have ALWAYS wanted to write a book.

I would like to fly a kite.

I would like to take art lessons. I would like to know how to paint or draw.

I want to take photography lessons and learn how to use Photoshop.

I would like to read 25 of the top novels of all time.

I want to see a live volcano.

I want to visit Key West.

I would like to go to Holland and see where my father was born.

I want to be proud of something I create in fused glass.

I would like to drive through Nappa Valley.

I would like to visit New Orleans.

I would like to visit England, see the historical sites like castles, Stonehenge etc.

I would like to take a bus tour of Italy.

I would like to photograph the Loch Ness monster.

I would like to learn how to knit.

I want to finish Adam’s Christmas stocking.

Careless Comment … Or Was It?

Someone made a comment at dinner last night that hurt my daughter’s feelings. I was not at this dinner so I was unable to buffer this rudeness or, and this was my gut reaction, pummel the bitch to the ground.

Ok … we all know I would not hit anyone, but any mother out there understands how I feel. We want to buffer our children, wrap them up in padding and protect them from the world. Unfortunately, that is in an impossible feat.

My daughter is in a committed relationship with a wonderful man. I could not have picked a better life partner for her. While their relationship is relatively young (living together for just over half a year) I believe they are lifers. They are a perfect match for each other, intelligent, fun, creative and family oriented.

Without going into details this woman basically dismissed my daughter as being inconsequential to this woman’s life.

It was a stupid, offhand remark at a family holiday dinner that was designed to bring attention to herself. I have not met this woman so I can’t judge why she would say this but I can only hope it was some sort of cry out for attention. She must be very unhappy in her life to intentionally hurt at least two of the people at that table.

Emotions run high at family gatherings and people tend to be a bit more outspoken when drinking. All I can do is hug my daughter, let her know I love her, and tell her what this woman thinks doesn’t matter .. what matters is the love she shares with the people who are closest to her in life.

Letter To My Father

Dear dad

I am used to writing to you … We often communicated by email in our last several years together so I am writing you one final letter.

I know you loved me and I know you know I loved you. But there hasn’t been a day since you passed away that I haven’t thought about how I let you down.

To me you were a wonderful father.  I always knew you loved me unconditionally.  The person I am today is based on the life lessons you taught me.  You taught me to judge people individually and not based on race or nationality.  You taught me to do my best because anything else was not good enough.  You taught me to try to take care of others and this is where I let you down.

I am so sorry that I didn’t make more time to see you over your last few years.  I kept telling you I would have more time soon … soon as I stopped working all the time … soon as my house was clean … soon.  I remember the last time I saw you as though it was yesterday, you and mom standing at the window near the elevator waving to me.  I looked back at you and I thought it might be the last time I ever see you.  No … I knew it.

I kept telling myself that when I returned from Florida I would make time to see you regularly.  Finally, two years later, I am finally getting freed up from the office and able to make time.  Two years later.  For the past 10 – 15 years I ran around working .. working and ruining the important things in my life.  Like anyone at work cared.  I don’t mean John … I mean the clients.  Did they care?  No.  They wanted me to fix things, make their lives easier but never appreciated me.  I was uncomfortable billing them … uncomfortable asking for money but that was why I was working around the clock.  Suddenly, in our “silver” years John and I had two more mouths to feed … we worked and worked in our to support our brood at home.  I lost track of what is truly important by working all the time.  I lost time with you … I wanted to work on the family history with you, I wanted you to share all the tales of your childhood with me.  I will never, ever be able to do that with you.  I missed it because I misplaced my priorities. I thought I was taking care of my family but I was losing the link to my past. I can’t forgive myself for how I treated you in your “golden years”.

Dad .. I am so sorry. I am sorry I treated you so offhand. I am sorry I didn’t spend more time with you. I should have realized time was not on our side.

I love you.

I hope you forgive me.