Monday, June 25, 2012

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

I’ve heard memoirs described as a roadmap for being a human.  Memoirs tell others what it felt like to have a certain experience – the good ones don’t claim to be the authority on that experience but they are bold and certain in their own particular truth and honesty.  A good memoir, in my opinion, when it’s finished, convinces you that it will be like this for you too perhaps, when “it” happens. Or, I know you know what I’m talking about because you felt it, and maybe, just maybe, you couldn't put it into words, so here the words are for you, finally.

For me and what became my cancer memoir, writing about Phil and the long process of his sickness, degrading health, the shock and even surprise when his death itself occurred ~ both the certainty that the suffering would eventually end and the hope and confusion about when, why and how, those parts came relatively easily.  The way the world always seemed to be cast in shadow offered endless perspectives to draw from for insight and commentary.  But now, most days there’s not much else I can say about it, Phil’s death.

Now I am in the land of grief – the process, the journey, the wandering.  There are no more facts or figures to report.  There are no more updates or data to interpret.  The need for my clinical skills is long past and I am left with the plain story of survival, coming to grips with the fact that my life will forever be divided into “before” and “after”.  Even my children are moving on in their grief, with the resilience of youth and the blessing that time affords them in the abbreviated economy of their lives.  My old life ended at the same moment that Phil’s did and it will never come back.  The loss of a spouse has been described as the loss of one’s “present” ~ I so totally get that. 

 I look around now and can’t help but see how people move through life as though their days aren’t numbered. As I continue to hear news of deaths or tragedies and how they shock people into another mental state, “the shallowness of sanity” is exposed again and again, just as it was for me.  As Alice went “through the looking glass”, so too did I undergo a radical change in perspective.  There is no going back to life as I lived it.  There were a multitude of things I set down in order to carry the weight of Phil’s illness and death and I realize I don’t ever need to pick them up again.  I consider that insight a divine gift, a silver lining to all of this – a very costly, but divine gift. 

How incredible too that this new mental state offered me an opportunity for tremendous growth!  As my wandering gains focus in this new headspace I have choices I get to make.  I have been given a fresh start, a new perspective, and what lies ahead is my future, full of possibilities and endless potential.  I’ve been blessed with another precious gift from this wreckage.  Yes, the wreckage remains but I am learning to dive it better with each descent.  I'm finding that I can come up for air more often and for longer periods of time.   Yes, I am grieving the loss of my "present" life but what I have gained is the expanse of the rest of my life.    

For me and my house, the rest is still gloriously, unwritten.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Camp Erin

I'm not entirely sure what I expected to hear from Bennett when I picked him up from camp on Sunday but I knew he'd have an incredible story to share.  I'd made arrangements for Olivia to be with friends so he and I could have the drive home alone together.  She and I had driven him to Camp Erin on Friday after school - a bereavement camp for kids who have experienced the loss of a loved one, sponsored by The Moyer Foundation and San Diego Hospice.  We had to straighten out his name tag (his first and last name are always getting switched around) but it was smooth sailing after that.  It was classic Bennett from then on, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out Mom, I've got this".  He was all set to make friends and "do camp".  And do camp he did.  

By all accounts, Bennett stepped deeper into himself this weekend and tempered the core strength and self awareness of his that has burgeoned this year.  One after another his counselors told me what a pleasure it was to have him in their cabin and what a natural leader he is.  They told of Bennett putting his arms around kids who were struggling with their grief, just sitting with them or encouraging them with a kind word.  And of how he led their cabin in the "GaGa" tournament victory (some high-action ball game, the hit of the weekend for all the campers)!  A wounded healer and athlete, he is his father's son in so many, many ways.  

On the way home Bennett filled me in on all the fun stuff they did - the canoeing, the pillow fights, the food, the farting, and the ghost stories.  He shared about the grief work - the memory board where he put Phil's picture and told his story, the lanterns they built and sent floating into the lake, the art projects they did together to commemorate their loved ones.  And about losing his voice because he laughed and yelled and screamed so much.

And then he turned the conversation to his whole life, outside of camp.  The things he said and the way he connected the dots and made sense of who he is and what's happened to him thus far in life... amazing.  As his mom, I'm not worried.  My son knows who he is.  He isn't looking to anyone outside of himself for validation or approval.  

He loves his dad and misses him but his life isn't going to be defined by Phil's death.  

As I told him, he is so far ahead of the game with that going for him.  I am so proud.  So in love with him.  So thankful.  

God is good, all the time.