“When we let go of our battles and open our heart to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. This is the beginning and the end of spiritual practice. Only in this moment can we discover that which is timeless. Only here can we find the love that we seek. Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy. Only in the reality of the present can we love, can we awaken, can we find peace and understanding and connection with ourselves and the world.”
A part of me wants to write about my weekend adventures, and a part of me just wants to disappear. I received an email this morning from a friend who wanted me to know that they were thinking of me and thought I might be struggling over memories of what took place a year ago. Transcriber of my life that I am, it was a prompt for me to go back and read some of my “status update emails from a year ago”. They went something like this –
May 16, 2013
Laureen did have her procedure yesterday after a five-hour delay. In the end it was primarily led by the interventional radiologists (IR) and Dr. Stecker. I believe they essentially threaded a catheter tube through her skin, her liver, and through the narrowed bile duct. They were successful with the procedure, I think even more so than they’d hoped. I know the doctors were all smiles with the results. It does appear that this finally stopped the bile from leaking into her abdomen although there is residual fluid that has to drain out so at the moment she has two drain bags but it is quite possible that they will remove one before she leaves for home.
There was a considerable amount of pain that she had to deal with throughout the night last night as a result of the procedure but the nurses seemed to get that under control today. Dr. Swanson stopped by this morning and he seemed very pleased with the results. So for the moment we will spend probably another few days here, getting the pain better controlled, making sure Laureen is eating and drinking enough to sustain herself, and making sure no unforeseen complications arise.
Unfortunately it does appear that this is going to be something of a drawn-out process. The IR doctors want to do a couple more follow-up procedures where they will be gradually increasing the size of the catheter tube. They (and we) are hoping that these will be out-patient procedures. And she may be toting her drain bag around for a while – perhaps six months or longer – as they feel it is going to take a long time for the bile duct to heal. Apparently it was a rather large leak. Still, we know that we’ve come a long way from where we were back in mid-April and earlier and are thankful for all of the expert care that we’ve received here at BWH.
John & Laureen
And. . .
May 19, 2013
It’s Sunday morning and we are still residing on the 16th floor of Brigham and Women’s hospital. I can only say that most of the people we’ve met here have been incredibly helpful, caring, friendly, and compassionate – (in fact, one of the kitchen people just came in to bring us our breakfast and she had the biggest smile for us).
Laureen’s progress continues, but very slowly. As I mentioned on Thursday (the last time I wrote), the procedure itself was successful which is the best news. But there has been a significant amount of pain and discomfort in the aftermath so Laureen continues to work with the nurses to try to get that under control.
We are hopeful that we will be going home sometime during this coming week but exactly when is still a little hard to say. The radiologists would like to do a follow-up procedure this coming week to increase the size of the catheter but they haven’t settled on a particular day yet. And they are still doing x-rays every other day. And then there is the pain and discomfort. So I think we’ve got a few more things to straighten out before we go back home again but we are definitely hoping that it will be sometime early this week.
That last one was exactly one year ago today. Two days later, on May 21st, Laureen and I actually left the hospital and came home. Unfortunately that only lasted through the weekend before we found ourselves returning back to the hospital after Laureen inadvertently pulled out one of the two catheter tubes she had at the time. Our third trip home, the Sunday preceding Memorial Day, was the final trip home for that part of our journey.
And now, here it is a year later and Laureen has already been gone from this world for 10 weeks and 3 days – a total of 73 days. I am lost and empty without her. She was the light of my life and my purpose for being. She was the center of my happiness and my joy. I am struggling to find my own center and balance again.
In that regards, I had a busy week last week in terms of self-care appointments. I attended my ongoing meditation group last Monday, followed by both individual and group grief therapy on Tuesday – a massage on Wednesday, and another small group meditation on Saturday. They were all good things to do and gave me brief periods of respite from my sadness. But once they pass, I return to that stale cardboard existence of sorrow and grief. Saturday night found me home, alone, watching the daylight slide into twilight. An empty house – no sounds, no laughter, no one to hold my hand . . . Those were the images that Laureen and I saw for my future and now my future has become my now.
Yesterday, Sunday, was a whirlwind of activity – exactly what I did not want to be doing at this stage of my life. I was done with that – spent years doing it before, had learned my lessons and found my Soul-mate and was content to just lead a quiet life with her throughout the remainder of my days. I did not see this coming. We did not see this coming.
And yet, here I am and our time together now seems like a dream. . . a dream I cannot touch again, but can only imagine, or relive through some black words on a white screen, lacking all tactility.
I attended a sound meditation that lasted for two hours yesterday afternoon. Before commencing, we were asked to share our intention. I stated that mine was to promote self-healing because my wife had died just a short while ago and I was still grieving the loss. That’s a rather succinct statement for the profundity of my loss.
It took a long time for me to let go in any fashion during the actual meditation. I simply kept begging Laureen to appear to me is some fashion, any fashion, so that I would know she is still around me. Eventually the sound people came over to me and really worked me over with their instruments. What finally broke through was when one of them actually touched the Tibetan bowl to my foot and repeatedly struck it, causing the vibrations and sound to actually, and physically, travel through my body. That jarred me enough so that I became aware of a dark weight upon my chest and right shoulder, pressing down, clinging to me like a succubus. I didn’t recognize it at first, and then I realized it was my Grief, clinging to me, unwilling to let go. And I believe it is the grief that is blocking Laureen out so that I cannot sense her around me.
But then a second vision came to me – it was our moment of pure bliss – an actual memory. We had traveled to Sanibel Island – our first real vacation after 9 years of struggling through so much. It was small things that signaled a significant shift for us – like Laureen actually being willing to buy and wear bathing suits. She had struggled with self-image issues for so long that this small act was really a very, very large shift for her. And so our moment of bliss came one day when we were on the beach at Sanibel Island and we were both swimming in the ocean and she actually, finally, and totally relaxed. And she just floated in the ocean and I came over to her and held her in my arms while she floated and she was weightless and serene and we were both just simply, and finally content. And I was aware of the importance of that moment, in that moment. I didn’t ever want to let it go. Not ever. And as I listened and felt the sound reverberating through me yesterday I realized in some way, just as the sound never really goes away, it just ripples out into the Universe, so too is that moment forever a part of the fabric of the Universe – continuing to ripple and travel outwards, possibly forever. And I thought that perhaps on the “other side” where there are no limits as to time and such, it may be possible to chase down that moment in our lives and relive it again, or experience it anew. Just the realization both of having touched that moment of Bliss in our lives, and that it still somehow lives on, brought me some measure of comfort, even as I accept that I am not now in the act of creating that moment.
The Yin and Yang of all of this is that I can still see the beauty and possibilities of this world. So while I struggle with my grief and sadness and aloneness, I still feel that there are doors that are now opening and opportunities that are starting to line up and I acknowledge that care must be applied in choosing the appropriate paths to follow.
I went to several open houses yesterday and one really was “the house”. It has John “R.R. Tolkien” written all over it –
Like, seriously, don’t I belong there? My mom would have absolutely loved this house – Laureen, I’m not so sure about. And it needs “some” work, but is also habitable as it is. I am sorely tempted as I know I will be very sad when this house goes under agreement. It is the kind of house that speaks to me and it certainly has a layout that would meet my needs – a room for every passion, every hobby that I want to explore. Writing, reading, art, jewelry. . . the possibilities are endless.
Eventually, and to end my night and my weekend, I found myself at the tail-end of a Grandmother’s meeting hosted by a mutual friend of Laureen’s and mine. Knowing that Laureen had attended one such of these meetings last summer, there was some connection to it for me. However, as I was taught in native American circles, these are meant to be sacred times for the women to share their stories and listen and learn from each other so I tried to be mostly a wallflower which was not overly difficult as I was still in the residual afterglow of the earlier sound meditation experience.
All of this brings me to the realization that I am not sure of where my path is leading me to, but I have a sense of there being something potentially wonderful down the road if I am able to discern and make the right choices as they are presented to me, and if I have the courage and fortitude to follow through with my choices and actually walk the path. It is natural, for me, to be reluctant to act on the choices that I make. But thus far, I have pushed through my reticence and am almost always rewarded with the understanding that my fears were unfounded and that there was something to be learned through each choice that I made.
As Laureen would say, “May it all unfold with ease and grace and gentleness.”