Last week would have been my husband’s 58th birthday. I decided to open up the journal I kept the year he died. I’ve been avoiding it fearing it would make me cry. And behold, it did not. In reading the first 6 months, I discovered things I had forgotten and reconsidered things I remembered.
For those grieving, I highly recommend The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Everyone will tell you not to make immediate decisions. But it is only in retrospect that you understand how clearly you were not (and may still not be) in your right mind.
In an attempt to put human face on HepC, treatment, transplant waiting and dying, I’d like to share some bits from the journal. The journal book is one I gave him for father’s day one year.
16 June 2002 Wendy
On this father’s day, you are building our home, which is a tremendous gift. We have the serenity of knowing we are committed to sharing our lives. That peace is also a gift we both should treasure. It was hard to think of a father’s day gift. Finally, a journal for you. Given at the beginning of this new phase. I hope you will find it a good place to write your thoughts once in a while. I love you.
20 October 2004, 9:30 p.m. Jim
I have re-read this journal’s opening page. Your words fill my heart with richness I would have only known by sharing my remaining years with Jacqueline and you. Today I reach another milestone in this wonderful life I have been given. I am not the person I expected to be a short twenty-four hours ago. The sky has become a deeper blue, the milliseconds it has taken for sound to compute through my mind – sight, sounds and smell have changed. At this moment I compare it to yesterday running at 78 rpm, I am now at 33-1/3. Forty-five rpm eluded me. I only caught a glimpse of my life playing out with it. This I must accept.
(I think this was the day Jim decided to do interferon/ribavirin treatment for Hepatitis C. This would be a second round for him. The first time he tried was interferon alone).
01 November 2004 Jim
I’m working on my weaknesses and fears of not just blood, but surgery and my ultimate fate. I do not want to leave my Wendy & Jackie alone.
15 November 2004, noon Jim
Well the games are about to begin. Who will be the victor and what, if any, war wounds will come to be my badge of courage. My spears are sharpened and lashed tightly yet loose enough to not break on the shaft. I’ve been thinking of my years, remembering as a younger man my many moments spent pondering life and soul. Times as as now I again realize the body is so much a vehicle for the soul. I must research the origin of Pegasys.
17 November 2004 11:45 a.m. Jim
Well my time has come. My medicine has arrived. I am braver than my previous battle to win my life back. Houston we have lift off. Injection didn’t hurt in the least.
5:45 p.m. So far so good, little fever, light chills. Slept most of the day.
02 January 2006 Jim
Well, it’s time to start writing. I am feeling poorly nearly every day. I want to cry. Of late, mental irritability. Seems I have become touchy about dying. I have to go deep. I sleep on average 18-20 hours.
14 March 2006 Jim
I’ve jumped around the checker board with this journal. It is a bit of a shame I haven’t practiced writing some of my dreams, thoughts, ideas and such through the years. Once I developed my style of penmanship in a decent readable form, the mush mash it has become, aggravates me.
Friday 2- Jim
I’m really losing it. Can’t remember normal things. My mind is starting to give new names for stuff
5 May 2007 Wendy
How do I write? Sweetheart you are gone. You left us on April 21, 2007. Two weeks ago. I cry hysterically. I moan & wander, looking for something to touch & hold, just to have you near me. Then I found this. Read your words and cried some more. My heart is broken. I miss you. Come back to me. Stay with me.
(this was the beginning of journal writing for a year).
1 September 2007, 5:18 a.m. Wendy
Turned the page on the calendar to September. And I cried. Going on without you is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Part Four: Time and Eternity Emily Dickinson
DEPARTED to the judgment,
A mighty afternoon,
Great clouds like ushers leaning,
Creation looking on.
The flesh surrendered, cancelled,
The bodiless begun
Two worlds, like audiences, disperse
And leave the soul alone.
EXULTATION is the going
Of an inland soul to sea –
Past the houses, past the headlands
Into deep eternity!
Bread as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?
LOOK back on time with kindly eyes,
He doubtless did his best;
How softly sinks his trembling sun
In human nature’s west!
Such beauty and honesty in his writings. This message needs to be shared with a larger audience that just FaceBook. I wish I could suggest avenues for publishing in print, but alas, I am unable to. Perhaps something with Emmaus?
I think one day in the future it will find a larger audience.
Wendy, I never knew your husband. I’ve never met your daughter. I didn’t know you when you were going through your husband’s illness. You and Jim were names on the prayer list. I regret to say that, had I known you all back then, I may have prayed harder. Lesson learned. You are a gift and you have many gifts. Please continue to share both with the world.
It is astonishing how much beauty there can be in pain. Thank you for sharing.
thank you for reading!