One journey down Grief Road - April 2000

Copyright June 2000, Dave Palmer

For what it is worth, here is a log of correspondence which shows some of the issues a person deals with when facing grief caused by death of a loved one. There are duplicate entries and entries which might make no sense at all. This is not an attempt to convince you to treat your grief a certain way. Everyone responds to grief in their own way.

In this case it was the loss of a spouse, loss of a marriage, loss of a 20+ year relationship, and loss of future plans and hopes that triggered these notes. To respect the privacy of others, all email addresses have been removed. In most cases the email shown is only mine.

This is presented only for purposes of illustrating the range of feelings and the way in which these feelings might change over time. This is not an attempt to solicit feedback or response to any issue. As the reader will find out many of the issues have been resolved through various techniques.

Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000 09:45:39 -0700

Subject: Thoughts and feelings

Dear Friends,

Something is moving me to write this morning.

I had a great day yesterday. When I picked up the mail in the late afternoon there was envelope from a new name. Inside was a card from an Emergency Room nurse and a personal note softly sharing the significance of Ellen's death on the ER team - it was extremely touching and after 7.5 weeks totally unexpected.

This morning I woke in a fog and really down and alone. Guess the good days are followed by some lonesome days and really sad feelings. After breakfast and petting the cat (always good therapy, but it sure brings bad sad memories too :-( ) I started reading and I picked up a couple of thoughts which helped:

"It is not a choice of pain or no pain, but hou you will manage the pain for today"

"Your sorrow is an emotion, not a disease. The only solution for grief is to grieve. You don't have to prove that your're so strong and 'doing so well' "

Those thoughts came from a "When Memories Prevail" pamphlet given me recently by a counselor at the funeral home during a followup visit from them.

In it, these topics and first sentences helped me today:

Plan Ahead - Begin early to formulate choices that will make you feel less like a victim and more like a survivor.

Be Realistic - Don't pretend that you don't hurt.

Be Flexible - It might help to change the old routines and start new traditions.

Pace Yourself - Try to reduce unnecessary pressures.

Choose The Right People - Try to be with those individuals who will allow you to share your honest feelings and accept you for what you are - a bereaved person.

Find Time For Yourself - More than ever, you need an interlude of emotional and spritual rest to get in touch with your memories - a quiet walk, meditation or prayer.

All this came out of that pamphlet - which is one for folks like us as anniversary, holiday or other special days arrive. I find it helpful today - which is not any special day - just one more day in a long line of days without Ellen.

This material came from a Dr. Earl Grollman - who it says, has authored 17 books on dying, death and bereavement.

Now, with my battery recharged a little bit - I'm going to try and take on the day. The first thing is to mail some letters. I've two granddaughters. 9 and 3. They lost their grandmother, Ellen. I can't begin to recall all her memories and wisdom like she could. So I've written each of her friends and asked them to write something that I can share with each granddaughter when they become teenagers. There's so much good about Ellen that they will miss unless others come to my rescue! Our photos and videos can't begin to tell her story to the grandkids. Hope Ellen's friends pitch in and help me out. After that is go out and attack the yard projects! The sun is finally out in western Washington and one does not dare waste a sunny day out here.

Love and hugs to all - I hope your dreams become your reality and that you find happiness today everyplace you look or go.

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Sun, 02 Apr 2000 18:04:02 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] anniversary(s)

Dear Sharon and all,

Anniversary grieving? I don't know. I've heard about it and read about it - but maybe this is a male mind thing. To me everyday is an anniversary.

Ellen died in February and the leap year stuff really brought it to my mind. What is magical about the day of the month she died. Thanks to the calendar it will never really be the same day again.

The day that means the most to me is every Tuesday morning - that cycle of 7 days will remain constant - but the month and day of the month always get mixed up -

Then, while I am feeling cocky, as I was today - while picking the horse manure in the stalls I suddenly started crying and weeping - it wasn't Tuesday, it wasn't an anniversary, it was I really miss Ellen and at times I get scared, frightened, lonely and very confused about why should I bother to go on.

I think todays episode came about after a wonderful visit from her best friend and husband last night. We had a great time talking about the 'good old days' and I felt so good and so happy. I'm learning that the next day I'll find myself at the bottom of the well. And it is cold and dark down there. You folks know what I am talking about - it is not a nice place to be.

So back to anniversaries - the daily cycle and the weekly cycle bother me more. Of course I've only been through one monthly event, we'll have to wait and see how I do on April 8th - but I think it will be just one more day without her - and that is the part that makes it difficult.

One thing remains constant - this isn't what any of us wanted - and however we get through, more power to each of us.

Love, hugs and

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2000 21:23:38 -0700

Subject: Re: Last of March...

Hi Did I not answer this one? My, my mind is going, going gone.

Snow in March? Well, we've had floods in April, so I can't point fingers at bad weather can I?

Glad you got some help on the fenceposts. Though you did save a big chore for yourself.

I'm going to "bounce" some mail to you from Grace and my response to her. She seems a lot better than her earlier letters had indicated. I sure hope it continues for her.

Had a nice surprise call and visit from Helen and Bill. It was great to see them on Saturday evening and great to still be a part of their circle of friends. Helen returned a necklace (you recall that event) and I gave her a sterling silver butterfly pin which had been a gift from me to Ellen.

The three of us had dinner at Jags (in Oakville) and she and I laughed and cried about our love for Ellen. It was simply a great visit. Hated to see them go. Hope they do come back, but I'm now a spare tire in most folks view and only time will tell if we stay connected. Just hope we do.

I'm asking for some feedback on the following note from Dawn, and my response (further down). The note came in Sunday night and I felt immediate stress, panic and extreme anger.

Here is the note:

Hey Dave!! Dawn here.

How are you? We are just fine. Leigha has been having more trouble with her feet. But managed a 2 mile hike Saturday in Forest Park with the Camp Fire group. We had a great time. Lee is in the warehouse this week at night. Boy is he grumpy. They are borrowing him for the week. Hee is still scheduled to take his driver's test one week from Monday. We will see what happens.

Lee would like to have Easter Dinner at our house this year. It's the first Easter Sunday he will have had off in Several years. He would like to know if you and possibly Keith would like to come down for Dinner. It is April 23rd.

I have a question. Lee and Leigha both asked if Ellen's stash of fabric is still out in the shed. If it is, we would love to come down and dig thru it. Both to help make sure it is ok for use, and to choose some for our own use. Then help prepare it for the local shelters. This time we will only bring up the 4 of us instead of the whole troup. Unless you would like to have an invasion again.

I know we were a bit overwhelming. We tend to be that way. But, it's good for you!!! We really enjoyed our visit. Leigha enjoyed her trip too. She is looking forward to spending more time with you. We will have to look over the summer schedule in may to see when you would like to have her again. She also see's it as an ESCAPE from both Jasmine and me.

Let me know what you think about all of this.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dawn =========== Here is my reply:

Hi - I'm bushed! That's how I am. A busy week and weekend.

The sun came out and I am trying to catch up on a couple of years worth of stuff, plus all the normal things. Been to a couple of meetings, normal errands and by the time the end of the day comes I'm normally exhausted.

Sorry to hear Lee got shanghied back to the cold storage! Not a nice thing to have happen. I was hoping he'd be on the road and having fun.

Sure hope Leigha grows into her feet or is it the other way around. Tough enough having growing pains (which are real) without having this other problem to deal with. She is a real trooper and I expect she'll tough it out as long as she can.

Let me think about Easter dinner. I've mixed emotions about a solo 'holiday' event right now. Debating between church, Glorianna and the other desire to crawl in a hole and hide. It would give me an opportunity to see your new home and that might be the key to getting me there. Let me think on it.

Whoa! Whoa! Yes I have some fabric in the store room. I've two senior citizen groups who I've contacted and visited already to check on their operations. They use the material for making blankets, clothes and quilts which they use to raise funds for their operations.

I've already made arrangements with them and have already delivered some to them.

Ellen and I had already sorted it and I really won't undo what is done as it is already prepared for the local shelters. But I'll put together a list of the contents and either send it to you or give you a call.

Then, if any sound interesting, let me know and I will set them aside. Give me a day or so to get back to you on this. I have to leave to pick up Esai this morning and run some errands so today is gone before I start.

Plese, please, please no more invasions. One was enough for a lifetime. Love to have company, but no more treasure hunts - I didn't realize it until too late, but the shock of so much change and disruption was almost more than I could handle. Not so good for me, really. One rapid change and shock, Ellen's death, was enough. I've now learned that grieving isn't an on/off switch. It's a journey not a destination.

I really enjoyed Leigha. She is great company and extremely interesting to be with. You and Lee must be quite proud of her. She seemed to enjoy everything - from a to z and she is a quick learner. She kept me on my toes and active. That was good for me and it seemed to be fun for her.

I am counting on her returning and I think she is too. There's a lot to do and have fun at around here and she sure seems to enjoy it. Like your 2 mile hike with her, sometimes just being outdoors and exploring is fun.

She has a scrapbook from the funeral home that deals with grief and grieving and she left it here to work on. So I think she and I have some 'Grandma Ellen' things to laugh and cry over. Plus I need a chance to try and win some Monopoly games -

Gotta run and get out of here. Couldn't tell from the note if Lee is behind the wheel this week or not. Hope so. Give him my best and lots of hugs and get lots back yourself. They are a precious commodity and you don't miss 'em until they are gone.

Love to all, Dave

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What bugged me is that neither Lee or Leigha have any interest in fabric. All I saw was greed and gluttony - and the threat of an invasion - was simply that. I likely should have asked for advice before I sent off my response this morning - but the panic I felt wouldn't leave me until I took care of what I felt. I've not signed on yet this evening so I have no idea how she took it or what her reaction to it is.

How about some feedback when you get time? Don't pull any punches? Thanks.

Just picked up Esai today. Drove to Puyallup (another Irish town in Washington) and met Betty for the transfer. So far we've had a great time and I am bushed, beat and wishing I was 20 years younger! He will be here for 3 or 4 days. Should be fun. We are getting to know each other after a 2 year absence. Looks okay right now.

Weather is delightful. I have my farmer tan already (face and hands and wrists)! I've been trying to spend some time each day in the flower garden (to see how much I will or will not like it) and I've resumed my daily walks. Boy am I out of shape!

Gotta get going - so will close here. Hope all is well and thanks in advance for reviewing my correspondence with Dawn.

Love you dearly, Dave
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Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2000 21:06:07 -0700

Subject: Monday night

Hi - Sort of fighting my own demons (grief triggered by family members) and also enjoying the arrival of Esai (grandson) - and whooped tonight..

Understand the intolerance of news. No news is good news. As managed as the news is these days we aren't missing real news because they don't provide it, unless you are interested in a Cuban boy in Florida - or Microsoft - other than that the world of news does not exist.

Well, you'll be back from the therapist by now. I've not signed on so I've not seen any new messages. Learned a long time ago to not look for mail if I am trying to answer mail. Anyhow, hope the session was helpful and worked to your advantage. Of course you may be given assignments that seem hard to do and you won't know until you've done them if they helped or not. Hope they do.

I understand about the driving bit. While I never had to drive 200 miles in a day - whoops I take that back - I have too - it is one of the costs of living rurally. As I think about it we did make multiple trips to Olympia in a day and had to go elsewhere for rx's so 200 miles was possilbe. Not at all fun though!

Glad you have neighbors. Glad they/she is supportive. I have absolutely no one that close. So far I've not been in a position like yours and I hope to God I never am, but I am glad you do have Gussie.

I undrstand your backward and forward motion. It does happen. For me it really happens after a good day. The next day there is a big let down. I can almost count on it. I can have 2 or 3 good periods and then a bad period, or 1 good period and then a bad period. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

Best analogy of it for me is a tree in a windstorm (I've use that before) but if the storm is a long one that slowly dies down then the tree starts out whipping hard to one side in each big gust and then bounces back between gusts and over time is whipped back and forth as the storm ebbs and flows. I think I am in such a storm. I am swaying back and forth, but not as extreme as it was originally - but still a shock and still tough to endure.

Does that make sense?

I'm sorry that you have to leave your house. That is a decision I might have to face and make in the future too. But I am not making decisions fast on puprpose. Gonna take my time for right now. But not easy is it?

Will get this off before I run down to nothing.

Hope the day went great and the boogie man is gone! Love you!

Dave Palmer - I got in the gene pool while the life guard wasn't watching.
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Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2000 21:56:06 -0700

Subject: Humble pie or eating crow, the grief kind

Dear Friends - I recently posted a lot of stuff I thought was working for me. Some pretty good writings and some pretty good sayings - but I'm learning THEY DON'T WORK all the time for grief.

I have never seen or felt such mood swings in anyone, let alone me. I've never seen normal things cause people to break down and cry.

I tried all the tips I suggested and they don't work all the time.

Just last night - I was feeling great, I had just worked in the flower garden, it was simply beautiful here in western Washington, the sun was setting the birds were singing, and I stepped up on the deck steps and WHAM - I started crying like a baby - anyone around me, including my grandson (9 years old) would have thought I was crazy.

Out of the blue came this memory of Ellen offering me a cup of coffee, as she had one hundred times in real life, when I'd be coming up the steps like that.

How can one protect their emotions from something like that? It happens time and time again. Just the proper sound or environment and all of a sudden my brain replays a pleasant memory - and bang, I am falling down a deep dark well.

In some ways the falls are further apart, but the depth of the fall seems greater and greater each time. I am really getting afraid to think or remember at times - afraid I'll be caught up in another emotional thunderstorm. God, I hope this eases up and I can begin recalling things without breaking up so badly.

The next sound you will hear is me gagging on humble pie - guess I'll get used to it!

Thanks for reading and please forgive my tendency to offer so much advice. I'll try to temper that urge with lots of humble pie!

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2000 21:17:28 -0700

Subject: RE: [F-AHEAD] Humble pie or eating crow, the grief kind

Hi Mary - Thanks for the many kind and descriptive words.

You surely hit the nail on the head and as I reread your email tonight the light really turned on for me.

For the last several days I've been working in the flower garden as time and interest permit.

You know what? Tonight I really felt pride about it and good about it and that really eased a lot of the pain. I'm doing the garden for me, but it seems to help in comforting the loss of Ellen.

I also spent a fair amount of time with my grandson and that too has been a blessing in disguise.

Thanks so much for helping to suggest guidance for my actions and thoughts. It means a lot!!

Dave On Wed, 5 Apr 2000 07:49:48 -0400, Bailey Mary L NSSC wrote:

Good Morning Dave;

Please dont apologize for "breaking down" Remembering your Ellen is a wonderful sweet loving gesture. I think its better to have beautiful memories of our loved one, than bad or no memories at all! You have to remember that you and Ellen have gone through a long emotional time, and no one can "get over it" in a matter of months. It takes a long time to fully come back to being and feeling normal again, whatever normal may be. I have only been a widow since Christmas, and I still feel like Ray is gonna come through the door, or call me. I fixed some pickled eggs last Sunday, those were his speciality, and I just talked to him like he was standing right there asking him how much beet juice and stuff like that to use. I am sure that Ellen is standing there next to you and watching over you and the family. I get some comfort in thinking that Ray is with me, I know your garden is beautiful and you are lucky to have such a place for therapy. I think of gardening and working in the yard as therapy. A love such as yours and Ellens can never be matched, and it will take time to recover her loss.

Enjoy your grandchildren and your horses and gardens and know that Ellen is watching all of this and is glad that you are doing o.k. Sincerely, Mary Bailey

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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"FACING-AHEAD@LISTSERV.ACOR.ORG" [FACING-AHEAD@LISTSERV.ACOR.ORG]

Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2000 21:27:55 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Humble pie or eating crow, the grief kind

On Wed, 5 Apr 2000 10:08:21 -0500, Andi Summer wrote:

Oh sure, it hurts like hell and basically sucks swamp water, but all in all, I think I am doing well. And then it hits. On Monday, I went back to bed for the first time in over 15 years.

Andi - thanks for your word pictures. "sucks swamp water" is just great and brought a laugh to this tired face of mine!!

You also mentioned a "pity party" - what a delightful idea! I should do that. Makes me think of some of the news photos I've seen of European and mid-East cultures that grieve with wailing and more - perhaps they know something about grieving that we don't - as they seem to have a big 'pity party'.

I know I'm in ]here somewhere I just can't find me right now.

That is such a true and powerful statement - I do wish I'd thought it up first! :-)

Sometimes I really really wish there were a fast forward button so I can skip this part.

Wouldn't that be nice - but in fast forward we miss the music and I guess that is why we are destined to play it out in real time.

Since I wrote my 'humble pie' note, my grandson and I have been busy and I have stayed busy on the projects and gardening (just a little). I'm beginning to take some pride in what I've been able to do and all of a sudden I feel 'worthwhile' - to myself. I knew, in the past, I was always worthwhile from Ellen's point of view, guess I'm now regaining some of my independent value - which was always there - it just wasn't important to me then.

There have been some wells to fall into, but not as bad - having said that, I've a sneaking suspicion that there is a huge one out there with my name on it just waiting for me to fall in. No, I'm not trying to be a pessimist - it just seems that I fall into emotional wells quite easily.

My prayers have helped and God willing these days will become more tolerable.

Hugs and prayers to all and

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 22:12:25 -0700

Subject: Grief - etc

Dear Kathy, Andi, Joyce and CarolSW,

Thanks for the kind response and information about confusion, crying, chores and more.

Maybe guys can fix things, but the housework and cooking (even for a grandson) is sometimes a mountain. Ellen and I cooked at different times, as I am on a restricted diet (voluntary rice and beans every night, oatmeal every morning) and she really could care less about eating my rather bla food. Can't blame her. Anyhow my cooking skills have suffered over the last 8 years. However the grandkids did survive and left with full stomaches.

I wish I could wave a wand and help you Andi. My biggest fear is being ill and being alone. Maybe each of us has that fear. I'd already had a heart attack and major surgery and Ellen's love and care made my recovery possible. I also know how valuable I was as a caregiver to Ellen, and it was never our plan for either of us to be alone in illness. While I'm not facing the issues women do, men do worry about stress induced heart problems, etc. and I'll tell you every aching muscle in my chest area (from chores or ?) gets my fear level up fast. I really dread the future alone. It is a scary part of this new life.

The other troublesome thing, and Kathy mentioned it, is that things just seem to be going wrong. Broken faucets, lights sensors that just stop working, leaking plumbing, all these things seem to blasting in, as if death wasn't enough already. Maybe I am just over-reacting, and maybe if Ellen hadn't died, these things wouldn't be so big. But it seems like I go from problem to problem and they don't stop. They've got to sometime.

Even our/my old mare (now 38) is acting strange. She was until a few weeks ago, the lead mare. Now she is the last one into the barn at night. At 38, which is ancient for a horse, I know there is a limit, but please God, not now. This was Ellen's first horse some 20 years ago and I am not ready for another loss. Someone said, "I hate the year 2000" and I am beginning to agree - though there are moments and even days when I have felt glorious to just be alive and be here.

Yesterday I devoted alot of time to the probate stuff. I simply inventoried everything and organized it the best way I could think of. I'll drop it off at the attorneys office tomorrow. As I tell him in the cover letter - it is a work in progress - and I'll bet, just bet, I get to do it over. I'll be glad to get it started - and once I am through it, I'm going to get my own will, a power of attorney, medical powers and everything else done so that no one has to go through this for me.

Ellen died two months ago Saturday. It is strange that it seems so close and so far away. I miss her so much each day that Saturday was no different than any other. Boy do I pray a lot, and today it seems to be working. Today I finally accepted Ellen's death and my own renewal as something in God's hands and by surrendering to those facts, life today was better. The confusion and dizziness really vanished. Stay tuned for tomorrow and all the days yet to come.

I hope and pray everyday becomes easier for each of us and everyone on this list.

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 23:01:36 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] new lurker

Dearest Kim,

My heart literally goes out to you.

While Ellen had a different type of cancer, I don't think that matters to the care-giver, each of us is terrified and already feeling fear like we've never known.

For me the only answer was to invest as much of myself as I could into supporting Ellen. It was tough because our spouses are people and they don't want to be smothered - so it is a fine line that we walk. That is one investment I never regretted making, especially now.

As a caregiver I tried to maintain as much sanity as possible in our life. No matter what the mountain was in front of us, there was no reason to panic or worry. We worked together to accomodate it and let it blend into our lives as much as possible. A lot of credit has to go to Ellen, she was very accepting and through it all mainained a sense of balance. It helps though if the cargiver is willing and accepting too. As in all things, it takes two to make things work.

As a caregiver I wish I'd invested more in researching grief and grieving topics - I waited until Ellen's death before I found out how much that delay hurt me. In hindsight, my rectal vision is perfect, I think it would have helped us - but that's something I won't pass judgement on now. "How to go on living when someone you love dies", Therese A.

Rando, Ph.D., originally published as Grieving, is something we should all read before we ever need it - years before!!

As a caregiver I was oh so glad that we found a cancer support group in our hospital. Those folks were simply terrific. The twice a month meetings were something we looked forward to. The meetings were upbeat and positive. The meetings helped us find other patients and caregivers who were on the same or similar road. We finally found people who would talk about cancer and who would listen to us and folks we could talk to about our issues. It seems our family and friends, except for 1 exceptional son, were in total denial about Ellen's health and cancer.

As a caregiver I found immediate support and guidance from the cancer group leaders when Ellen died - they were there within minutes - and would have been there sooner - but none of us knew she was that close to death.

As a caregiver I was helped tremendously by the email group for Multiple Myeloma. Through it we learned of new treatments (aredia and thalidomide) before they were commonly used. Through that group I received unbelievable moral support during periods of hospitalization or during bouts of doubt. When Ellen did die their outpouring of support shielded me from some of the terrors that accompanied that experience.

As a spouse I wish I had paid more attention to the legal affairs that can suddenly arrive. Send me an email if you want to pursue this topic offline. Compared to the loss of a spouse the legal affairs are nits, but at the wrong time, nits can hurt more than they need to.

As a caregiver, to a caregiver, I hope you gain something from this:

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited ...

It cannot cripple love,

It cannot shatter hope,

It cannot corrode faith,

It cannot destroy peace,

It cannot kill friendship,

It cannot invade the soul,

It cannot silence courage,

It cannot steal eternal life,

It cannot suppress memories,

It cannot conquer the Spirit.

I wish and pray with all my heart that life is gentle and kind as possible for you and Jim,

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 21:52:25 -0700

Subject: Today's thoughts

Hi - Just returned a couple of hours ago from my second grief support group meeting.

The first one was 3 weeks ago, and at the time I didn't know if I would be able to make it that long without another meeting.

Obviously I did. But I'll tell you, while I am down here in the trenches, it is so hard to see any progress.

I did have a little card on which I had written things like dizziness, waves of depression and fear, an attitude of why go on, and a couple of other things.

Three weeks ago the little marks I made showed I was really hurting. Since then I'd made more little marks by each problem and today I noticed the marks were showing things were better. I could even talk today, which I could barely do three weeks ago.

I did learn today, that my inability to recall Ellen's image (other than lying in death) is not unusual and that it will eventually pass. (I can recall pictures of her, I just can't recall her sitting in a chair or sofa or walking - the photos I can recall, but not her except as she looked when she died)

What really drove home the severity of our grief was 5 new widows and 1 new widower in the group. One had been married 57 years. My heart just stopped for them. And then it dawned on me that a few weeks ago it was me sitting in their chair. This thing of death and grief is so cruel at times.

Our leader did admit that other cultures (she has lived in other countries) treat survivors differently - and I guess our country did too. She said that grief is acknowledged more and that people are exposed to it more. I recall, as a kid in SW Oregon, in the 1940s, that we treated grieving people with respect. I think they still wore arm bands then. I do know that funeral processions were almost a sacred event in our town. Traffic stopped! People on the street stopped. Men removed their hats (they still wore them then). Our entire attitude was different and I think we were more aware of the grief that others felt. I can even recall funeral wreathes on the door of the deceased.

This might sound crude, but toay, in comparison, I think society treats a death and funeral like another order for burger and fries at MacDonalds - just another transaction and everyone goes about their business as though nothing happened, but we know that something major did happen to us and our loved one ! The survivors are left alone and shown no respect or special consideration - take a number and wait your turn - Next?

I'm just glad there is an understanding and respectful electonic world for us to join in - and a safe place to go to. I wouldn't have made it the three weeks without you! Thanks all for being here!

I was reading "How to go on living when someone you love dies" again last night. This caught my eye and heart:

"Recovery means that you can integrate the past with the new present that exists. You will never forget, but you will not always be acutely bereaved. Recovery from your loss will leave a psychic scar, like a scar that remains after a physical operation. This does not necessarily interfere with your present functioning, but there are certain days and particular condtions when the scar will ache or throb. It will remind you of what you have been through, and you will have to do something to tolerate the pain until it passes."

I thought it described some of my days so well. Love, prayers and hugs to all - Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 22:27:45 -0700

Subject: Re: [MM] Blazers Assistant Diagnosed With MM

Diana,

Your note about the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story dealing with the 'cure' caught me in a strange mood and close to my soap box (again).

We know the reality of 'cure' when it comes to MM.

I wish you could write a story to show the reality of 'cure' (of any type) when it comes to MM.

An image of the 10,000 or so new gravestones every year (from MM alone) comes to mind.

Perhaps we could assemble the 20,000 or so grieving survivors for a group picture of how successfully MM is treated.

Somehow we have to balance the 'hype' with the 'reality' that this is a severe cancer that needs more specific research and attention. We also need better and more accurate diagnostic techniques as well as a better educated medical community.

The press in general can help us more by getting back to basic well researched reporting and by staying away from media events. But that's wishful thinking on my part. Darn it!

Whoops, slipped off the soap box.

Hugs to all - Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000 Chehalis Watershed at: http://www.crcwater.org
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Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 19:10:49 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Today's thoughts

Thanks Sharon for the kind note.

My optimistic note of yesterday faded into oblivion today.

It seems everytime I get up on the ladder I slide back down hard the next day.

Today was also a day I wrote short notes to friends, fought a last medical bill,

and fumed over my bills. Those tasks didn't help, but I was in the pits before I started the process.

One saving grace - I had to stop and pray for help one time, and when I was done I turned around and the cat just walked into the kitchen. I plopped down on the floor and he demanded enough attention to help get my mind out of the pile of misery that it was in. Sometimes the littlest of things can make the biggest difference.

But right now I am whooped again and I think tonight is a night to call it quits and get some sleep and let the worries drain off me.

Take care and best wishes to all,

Dave
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Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 19:41:05 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] More thoughts for Today

Dear Kathy and All,

I found your meditation fantastic. Ellen left a huge flower garden. It is in need of care and the days I've been able to be there, now for my own reasons, I have found it wonderful and each flower is truly a gift and a conversation.

I had a choice - plow it under, take care of it for Ellen, or take care of it for me. I chose taking care of it for me. I think it will reward me a hundred times over. Time will tell though - as this is a new thing for me, and my skills may be well intentioned, but they are not well honed. What I do to help me might be disasterous for the flowers - I sure hope not!

The one from the NY Times sort of bowled me over. I've not read something so close to reality. I can agree that Ellen's death is bringing a death to me - and I am somehow going through it while alive, and at the same time coming back to life. Ellen's favorite saying dealt with butterflies:

"If dreams were wings we would each be butterflies"

so I guess I'm coming out of a cocoon - slowly and carefully - and no where close to stretching my wings, let alone fly.

So thank you Kathy for your wonderful note and your observations of yourself. It sure helped these tired eyes and body.

Boy wouldn't it be nice if we could hibernate through this process and wake up in the spring of life, hungry, strong and ready to go out and take on the world?

As you said: "one of these days ..."

Hugs to all,

Dave
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Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 12:00:20 -0700

Subject: Survivor's dilemma - going on

Yesterday was tough - and today seems equally tough for me to deal with.

I've done a lot of self talk and a lot of praying and things sort of improve for a moment or two.

I went on a walk and saw in the blackberry bushes just how I feel trapped. Sometimes I'm in a place where I see no path - hard or easy - that leads out into a new world. Of course that thought did nothing to help me then.

Later it dawned on me (I must waken awfully slow) that there is no reason for things to get easy just because I want them to. I figured out that I'm really just starting this trip. While it has been only a little over two months it already seems emotionally like 2 years.

Just a few minutes ago another thought crept into my mind. Ellen knew by my actions and words that she had my permission to die - and I think that relieved her.

But no one gave me permission to go on living. Books and counselors talk about the importance of aiding the loved one through the dying process by giving permission to die, but I don't recall anything written or said that accomodates the future life of the caregiver or the loving one.

I now feel trapped between the dream/plans/hopes of the future and the reality that it will never, ever play out that way. I can recognize the death of Ellen - but now the death of the future seems equally hard to recognize and bear. It's almost like a repeat of Ellen's death and extremely painful. Is this another roadstop on this blasted grieving highway?

How do you replace the long term dreams of the future when the world seems so dark? I can keep busy on projects day in and day out, but where do they lead? I don't know. Right now they lead nowhere and that is terrifying. I can't recall ever not having some dream of the future to work for. Now it seems so blank and empty.

Gosh I haven't cried this much in quite a few days. Just the thought of losing those dreams brings home so much sadness, I can't believe it. Yet I know the dreams aren't possible without Ellen as a partner - yet I've emotionally held onto the dreams and now I am slowly figuring out that I have held on and that I can't hold on any longer.

But it still goes back to the lack of permission to go on living. Her death wasn't voluntary and my disturbed mind is not willing to think that her death released me from those common dreams.

I know that is not a rational thought. I just never connected, until now, the strong bond between a human life and emotional plans of the future. They seem to have two separate lives in my mind and now I am finding out that dreams and emotional plans can be as real and important as she was and is. The truth is I've been so busy living 'today' and trying to get through each day that I didn't start thinking about 'tomorrow' until recently. That's when all this started.

Sorry this is rambling on so much. Today is just one tough mess of blackberry bushes and it is dark and dangerous at times. The thought of losing the future is going to take some getting used to - and I guess recognizing the loss is the first step. Just one more damn thing after another - and the (I can say this now) funny thing about it is that it is all just in my mind. None of this exists in the real world - so I guess I've got to get my head turned around and focused in other directions....

As the card in front of me states: "Your sorrow is an emotion, not a disease. The only cure for grief is to grieve. You don't have to prove that you're so strong and "doing so well".

Well - I'm grieving and I'm sure not strong and I'm sure not doing so well. On that basis I have to guess I am doing okay.

Now its time to go out into the other world and conduct some business, do some shopping and then come back to this temporary nightmare I've created. I've got short range plans to keep me busy and keep me going - the loss of the future is something I'll just have to deal with but it doesn't look easy or sound fun right now. It is especially frustrating when you can't retreat into the memories of the past for comfort - oh boy - As Ellen used to say: "Where on your birth certificate did you find a guarantee for happiness?"

Sorry to burden you all with this - it seems to help to be able to communicate to others who might understand. Thank you for being here or there...

Dave

who is now caught in this trap between their dreamed of future life and the reality of the loss of a loved one.
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Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 09:02:22 -0700

Subject: Re: (no subject)

Hi Donna,

Great to hear from you and glad you are free of the tax bunnies for the time being.

This past week was extremely busy for me. Several meetings, for example one day a trip to Elma (east), Napavine (south of Chehalis) and Olympia (north). Used up over half of tank of gas in the old Pinto - so I know I put on some miles. That day I spoke to a bunch of grant administrators, taught a 1 hour class to 25 fifth graders and went to a grief counseling meeting. I'm getting plenty of exposure and human contact. The grief session was okay - much better, in terms of my comfort, than my first one. It was sad to see 5 new widows and a new widower, and one of that group had been married 57 years. They were in so much grief it hurt.

I was on the road 4 of the past 5 days. Yesterday we (CRC) had a booth at a Master Gardener Lawn and Garden show in Aberdeen and I staffed it for 4 hours.

You'd think the activity would keep me going - but I ran into a couple of emotional walls as well. Thursday I declared a mental health day - though that was spent doing paper work and catching up on correspondence of the snail mail kind. Guess that led the old mind to dwelling on things and Friday was the pits.

On Friday it finally came to me that not only was Ellen dead, but so was our future and the plans and hopes. Now I intellectually already knew that, but my heart and soul didn't until Friday. When that hit - it was extremely painful and I was a blithering idiot. I'd describe it as being blindsided by a scoop shovel full of bricks or rocks. I had no idea a load was getting dumped on me until it happened. I got through it - but damn, it was an awakening and reason enough for a real pity party. I had two meetings Friday afternoon and things went well and I obviously recovered.

Just wonder how many more dragons are waiting in the grass to grab me later.

Saturday morning was another hit on loneliness. I mention it only because I thought I'd already dealt with it, but it appears some dragons are harder to kill than others. Attending the Master Gardener show helped - but I was reminded there - how reluctant folks are to bring up the subject of death or mourning. VERY RELCUTANT!

The WSU Extension Agent, Don Tapio, did confirm we me that WSU is approving donation and planting of a memorial rose, to Ellen, at the fairgrounds in Elma. That will be nice and I hope they let me know when this event takes place.

So, other than Friday morning and Saturday morning I had a very good week. I've tracked my emotions enough now to figure out that when I am running on a high, there is always a period of terrific let-down that takes place. It is quite predictable and I can write a guarantee on it now. That brings it's own issue with it. Do you try hard to feel good knowing you will be slapped down? or? Do you not try hard to feel good and just muck around in the mud so that you won't be slapped down? Guess I'll get slapped down.

The flowers are coming out here. Daffodils are almost done, but the tulips (the few that the rabbits left) haven't bloomed. The cherry tree has started, and the flowering plum is all done. I pruned and fertilized all the roses, and I've been spending as much time in the flower garden as I can. It took a couple of days to get the water reconnected for the garden, but now I am ready.

I've adopted the garden as 'my' garden and I am enjoying it, so far! I chose 'adoption' over 'doing it for Ellen' - if I don't 'own' the feeding, weeding and other stuff it won't work. So far I'm feeling great about it. Already staking out the plants (over 200 so far) so that I a) don't step on them b) don't pull them and c) don't kill them with weed spray

I was in control of the lawns until this week. Meetings kept me away from the lawn mower and now, thanks to a couple of days of drizzle, everything is soaking wet and impossible to mow. With a meeting all day Monday I'll be hard pressed to get things knocked down before Tuesday and that means a huge effort to mow - manually or on the rider.

Your note said: "Can't remember if I owe you any updates re: Ken's health, etc. ... Think all bases were covered with my last memo, but I'm not sure! ... Prod me if needed, OK?" and my 'is this a secret hint antenna' went up. So I'll ask - is there something else you learned at the doctors office?

Esai is the spelling - hard to to tell from the pronunciation - in fact Esai told me he wants to take the 'a' out of his name so people will pronounce it as e-sigh instead of other clobbered versions which I can't type.

Would love to have the 2 9-year olds together. I am not ready for the younger set. But those two would be a delight to have together - it is only a matter of figuring out days.

I'm going to try to get hold of Lee today. He and I haven't talked in 4+ weeks. I sent a book to him - on loss of a loved one - hope he receives it in the manner in which it was intended - just as aid and something to read into the mind.

I'll bet Dawn does well on the job market. With her stamina and eagerness she would do well by any employer. It takes time to find a match and I guess patience is the key.

Chris called the other night. He is doing well. He surprised me with some questions about how Ellen died. It seems that grieving goes on even across the miles and time zones. Interestingly enough answering his questions was something I could deal with then.

I missed talking to Glorianna for 10 days now - but today I'll make up for it. She was okay the last time we talked. The modernization of their plumbing, alarm and heating system, which took months, has finally stopped and she is enjoying some peace and admits that she is now having a let-down after all the stress, noise and inconvenience.

Can't think of anything else to rattle on about. Thanks for the use of your eyeballs! I hope to have a happy day and I hope yours is even better! Dave
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Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 09:34:10 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Survivor's dilemma - going on

Ah Toni,

Yes you make sense.

Your note brings a lot of emotions to the surface.

The future is here, they say, and yet I'm walking alone.

So much of the future was already planted in my mind years ago and now as those events occur, the reality does not match the image.

This is the hard part for me. My companion - who is apparently a permanent fixture in my mind of the future - isn't there. I don't know how to reach out into the future, in my mind/emotions, and change the image that is there. It seems difficult to do.

You are further down the road than I - and it is scary to learn that this future phase of grieving can go on so long - after all I know Ellen is in her new life and likely doing better than I right now - and I can't move pass some of the early hurdles.

I don't know - maybe 'fun' and 'joy' don't return until we find something or someone worthy of that honor - surely our spouses were special people and for me my concept of 'joy' or 'fun' is not something I'd easily share.

I sure wish there were time machines that would let us peek into our future and learn that someday we will be happier - then some of these pains might be easier to bear. But I guess we have to take it one day at a time and keep trying.

Hugs,

Dave
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Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 21:34:43 -0700

Subject: About me

Hi - Just thought I'd pack a bunch of stuff in a note and send it off.

This past week was extremely busy for me. Several meetings, for example one day a trip to Elma (east), Napavine (south of Chehalis) and Olympia (north). Used up over half of tank of gas in the old Pinto - so I know I put on some miles. That day I spoke to a bunch of grant administrators, taught a 1 hour class to 25 fifth graders and went to a grief counseling meeting. I'm getting plenty of exposure and human contact. The grief session was okay - much better, in terms of my comfort, than my first one. It was sad to see 5 new widows and a new widower, and one of that group had been married 57 years. They were in so much grief it hurt.

I was on the road 4 of the past 5 days. Yesterday we (CRC) had a booth at a Master Gardener Lawn and Garden show in Aberdeen and I staffed it for 4 hours.

You'd think the activity would keep me going - but I ran into a couple of emotional walls as well. Thursday I declared a mental health day - though that was spent doing paper work and catching up on correspondence of the snail mail kind. Guess that led the old mind to dwelling on things and Friday was the pits.

On Friday it finally came to me that not only was Ellen dead, but so was our future and the plans and hopes. Now I intellectually already knew that, but my heart and soul didn't until Friday. When that hit - it was extremely painful and I was a blithering idiot. I'd describe it as being blindsided by a scoop shovel full of bricks or rocks. I had no idea a load was getting dumped on me until it happened. I got through it - but damn, it was an awakening and reason enough for a real pity party. I had two meetings Friday afternoon and things went well and I obviously recovered.

Just wonder how many more dragons are waiting in the grass to grab me later.

Saturday morning was another hit on loneliness. I mention it only because I thought I'd already dealt with it, but it appears some dragons are harder to kill than others. Attending the Master Gardener show helped - but I was reminded there - how reluctant folks are to bring up the subject of death or mourning. VERY RELCUTANT!

The WSU Extension Agent, Don Tapio, did confirm we me that WSU is approving donation and planting of a memorial rose, to Ellen, at the fairgrounds in Elma. That will be nice and I hope they let me know when this event takes place.

So, other than Friday morning and Saturday morning I had a very good week. I've tracked my emotions enough now to figure out that when I am running on a high, there is always a period of terrific let-down that takes place. It is quite predictable and I can write a guarantee on it now. That brings it's own issue with it. Do you try hard to feel good knowing you will be slapped down? or? Do you not try hard to feel good and just muck around in the mud so that you won't be slapped down? Guess I'll get slapped down.

The flowers are coming out here. Daffodils are almost done, but the tulips (the few that the rabbits left) haven't bloomed. The cherry tree has started, and the flowering plum is all done. I pruned and fertilized all the roses, and I've been spending as much time in the flower garden as I can. It took a couple of days to get the water reconnected for the garden, but now I am ready.

I've adopted the garden as 'my' garden and I am enjoying it, so far! I chose 'adoption' over 'doing it for Ellen' - if I don't 'own' the feeding, weeding and other stuff it won't work. So far I'm feeling great about it. Already staking out the plants (over 200 so far) so that I a) don't step on them b) don't pull them and c) don't kill them with weed spray

Today I did some more garden work. Then decided my memory was failing and chose to use a camera to help me recall all the plants and the way they look in April. Took a roll of prints - section by section - and then dusted off the video recorder (hadn't used it since October of 1998) and took a video tape as well. Between the two I should be able to figure out what something looks like - without and with flowers - and short as well as tall.

I hope to find some areas of the garden which I can really turn into a desert and not worry about flowers or bulbs - that will make the maintenance that much easier.

I was in control of the lawns until this week. Meetings kept me away from the lawn mower but late this afternoon I decided wet or not, they were going to get mowed. Surprisingly the mower did a good job and I've three lawns down and now only the grass along highway 12 to worry about.

Had a good chat with Ellen's mother. She admitted to me she is geting weak legs and finding it difficult to walk. I had to push and prod a little to get her to admit she needs to see a doctor. She hemmed and hawed about how she will get there (this friend is sick and that friend is helping a son and the taxi costs $30) and when I said I would go get her, she finally started sounding serious about finding alternative ways. Sure hope so. I'd go, but I'd rather not.

Still haven't talked to Lee. He has called Glorianna twice in the last month - but not called me. Prior to this he hadn't called her once in years. I've left messages and requests - but..... either it is grief, or estate problems - something is bugging him. Guess I will find out someday.

Haven't heard from Grace in a while. Suspect that I offended her. I suggested that she try writing in sentence form, with an occasional paragraph thrown in for good measure. I simply told her I found her notes to hard to understand. Guess I shouldn't have taken that stance, but since I was unable to read them and understand them, I thought my suggestion might be accepted.

Hope all is well with you. I'm hanging in as best I can. Love Dave
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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 21:35:48 -0700

Subject: Monday night

Hi

Sure glad you can open your doors. Out here that would be an invitation to an invasion of alien species. Our flying insect population arrives before the daffodils! I gave up on screen doors. Seems the collie, as a dog, is bred to protect the cave entrance and screen doors just don't stand a chance against daily abuse year in and year out.

Hadn't thought about the reading program. Will have to consider that as an option for the future. It would do this old mind good to stay involved with younger folks.

I have often wondered, especially right now, how Dad did as well as he did. As far as I know the concept of grief support groups was almost unheard of then, and Dad would not have been an easy candidate anyhow. Regardless, I have a taste of what he went through.

As I part with Ellen's things and get the positive feedback that provides, I see now why Dad might sell and give things away. It is a way, sometimes the only way, to get a kind word from another human. A mourner can starve for affection, believe me.

I've learned, now, that divorce is a subject for extreme grieving. It is no less a loss and the other factors you mentioned certainly add weight to the burden.

You are right. It does take time. But those darn boobytraps are nasty. Wish they came with an announcer, who says: "Warning boobytrap arriving in 30 minutes, take cover!" But they don't.

I think the rose will be a terrific memorial. Plus, with Master Gardeners in charge of it, it should have a long and full blooming life!

Interesting, your approach to gardens and mine. Your GIS (the buzzword this day for Geographical Information Systeme) of flower location is exactly what I want to do. I'd like to think that there is something known growing in a certain location.

My mind is wandering now, as I think how Mark or Deb might do this. They would likely get a GPS compass, one with 200 or 300 points of storage, couple that to a digital camera which has voice recording, and plot every plant location along with a photo, then download (or is it upload) that to their computer and create a 3 dimensional image of the garden - overlayed with location of the sprinklers, a layer electrical wiring for the garden lights, and a layer for speaker wire for the stereo speakers hidden in the garden.

Think I'll take a tape measure and yellow pad out with me after the flowers bloom and keep it sort of simple.

You could be correct about Lee. But he hasn't had a good track record of staying in touch when Ellen was alive and he certainly hasn't improved since her death. I'm sort of ticked off - but I'll be nice if and when he does call.

"Just like the new parents across the street with a newly adopted Chinese girl,the mother must have placed the little one some dozen times by a specific tree, only to have the toddler walk up to her as she peeped through the lens.The mother gave no toys, made no funny faces. for entertainment, nor tried to seat her on the grass...she just gave up and went inside. Definitely a lack of experience!"

That sure is a sad tale. Sort of scary. Maybe just a side effect of adopting? I think carrying a child for 9 months, delivery, diapers and nursing sort of train the new mother. The adoptive Mom has no roots to fall back on. Maybe the child is just an acquisition and nothing more.... who knows? I'm certainly not a mother.

Ahhh, online chatting. I'm so glad a) I'm not on AOL and b) my software does not support it. Have you thought about getting another userid so that you can get on aol and not be detected? You could at least do your work uninterrupted and use the regular name when you have extra time. Just a thought.

I do hope things work for Grace. The fact that she had one good bite is encouraging. There are fish in the sea and she just might catch one. Sure hope so.

Well, I'll be. Mendelssohn composed it. Sure surprised me. I love that piece. Is it considered an anthem or just a classical composition. Do you know?

Yes, I did read the Empire of the Dead. Interesting. I almost passed it on to others to read but thought better of it. No, I don't remember Dad mentioning that at all. With my young male brain I would likely have poo-pooed it and promptly forgotten about it. And, like you, I'd like to hear his stories again.

Thanks for being willing to add your comments to Leigha's memory bank. Your words will have great value as you are of her generation. I deeply appreciate it.

You mentioned taking care of myself. You know I've had those thoughts too. Grief seems to drive a number of physical ailments. Weird pain symptoms, dizziness, mental confusion and others add up to some terrifying moments. After a while I realize that it is not real in the physical sense - but with my history of heart attack, it is cause for pause and deliberation. I guess if something happens someone might find me after the 3rd Monday of each month when I don't appear at a board meeting. Other than that, I have no regular or scheduled contact with anyone. Given the right conditions I'll be a pile of bones left by the coyotes after they find me in the 18 acres.

I'm toying with taking the cell phone with me on my jaunts. But that is a pain and I've not done it. I do have an alert system which I purchased for Ellen that does call and leave emergency messages - but it has a range of only 50-100 ft from the receiver and is not at all suitable for my needs outside.

So for now, I am careful and really watch things - 'cause I realize how easy one can fall and get injured, get kicked by a horse, etc. Let me think on it and come up with a plan. What is your plan? How do Mark and Deb know you are okay?

Had a good day today. Short board meeting and then I spent 3 hours in the garden. That was fun. I am beginning to see the results of my efforts and it is something I can do anytime I want to. That makes it almost fun! Need to buy some annuals and fill up the planters and get some colorful joy around me.

Put up two more hummingbird feeders tonight - that will ease the traffic around the deck area. The swallows are back in the barn and all is well here.

Love you dearly,

Thanks for being not only my sister, but my friend! Dave
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Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 10:42:28 -0700

Subject: RE: [F-AHEAD] Survivor's dilemma - going on

Hi Mary Yes, sticking close is comfortable. I was having panic attacks. Like you I am slowly getting over them. Think the furthest from home that I've gone is 60 miles and I was eager to get back here.

Guess home is safe, even though it is empty. The house is my connection to the past and the present and now without Ellen that is all that I have that I can count on. Before I could always count on her and home was any place we wanted to be. Just isn't that way anymore.

I do fret about who will come to rescue me or my critters or this home. Right now, no one. And that is sort of bothersome. Hopefully I'll get established again and at least have folks that will check in, now and then.

I was invited out to Easter at the kids home. I am declining the invitation. Just too early for me to be involved in a big family event. I'm volunteering through a church to help either at the church or a local foodbank (waiting for a callback on that). Think this will fit my mindset better than kids arguing over Easter candy or Easter eggs. Just not up to that, or the travel, right now.

I was a volunteer at a booth this last weekend and it startled me how uncomfortable I can be around other people now that I am alone. Without Ellen I've lost my bodyguard and I have to figure out how to interact all by myself. A strange feeling.

Yep, I've a few projects to do. Spending a fair amount of time outdoors and enjoying it. Trouble is I am burning up too many hours trying to work and not enough hours trying to sleep. Have no trouble sleeping, just don't get enough of it.

The ring and cross design are on hold until I see the jeweler next week. Can't recall what I had said about it before. I simply plan on having our rings soldered to a cross which is in the center of a heart. It was the last sterling gift I gave Ellen and she was wearing it when she died - so it, with the rings attached, will be a nice permanent reminder of love faith and hope.

I hope your Easter is joyful and the thought of renewal and rebirth brings a warmth to your life and a smile to your heart! Dave
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Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 22:49:30 -0700

Subject: Re: (no subject)

Howdy - Getting the cards was fun. Thanks to Ellen I know where to shop! And it is one more step into the future.

Can't believe it, but I was shopping most of the day today. Ellen at her weakest could walk the legs off of me any day and today was no exception - I'm pooped. Had to get chandelier bulbs, batteries, plants (yes, I bought plants!), fertilizer, and of course comparison shop on the plants. Then I was out in the barn and yard and supper time didn't come til 7 and it is now 10:30 and I gotta get going to bed.

Yesterday I had a relatively brief and well run board meeting (pat on my back) and spent the rest of the day in the garden. Doing a lot of work, but that sucker is huge!

Lee left a message yesterday (Monday), but he never ever says when is a good time to call back and in fact I thought he was going to call back today - so today I left my cell phone number on the message and guess what no calls on either phone. He is simply hard to get ahold of.......

I'm tempted to get caller-id on the phone - I get a lot of hangups and no messages. Do you have caller-id? What's to look for in a caller-id unit?

Hope Ken gets better. Be sure and push the doctors for all the info you want. There is no need to be a 'good patient' or 'good caregiver' - "that will happen to him now and again" sounds sort of weak to me....but then I'm naturally a doubter. And I'm not perfect either.

Glad the kids are enjoying the 'new life'. Eager to hear from Lee how the driving is going. Hope he enjoys it - I'd be a) bored silly and b) accident prone - so it wouldn't be my cup of tea - but son Keith loves it and I expect Lee will or does too.

I'm gonna try and get hold of Lee tomorrow - I likely will get Dawn or the answering machine - but I'll give you a heads-up.

A week or more ago, Dawn had invited me to dinner. My response then was "I don't know" - turns out it is really too early, much too early, for me to even think about wanting family events. Monday I hooked up with a minister in Centralia Methodist Church and I have a afternoon of volunteering planned. Just the thought of doing that brings a calmness to my soul - if you can understand what I mean. It feels good, it seems good and it is something I want to do for me.

So I'll leave the chocolates, easter eggs and fantastic food in good hands and I'll bet Lee's cooking vanishes faster than the Easter Bunny!

Gotta sleep - been up past midnight for 5 nights already.

Bye! Dave
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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000 09:45:13 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Survivor's dilemma - going on

I did share this with a married friend and she suggested that I have one of those disorders where you are fearful to leave home......I don't think so.

Hi Toni - Sometimes friends don't understand.

For some reason this conversation made me think of my cat. Notice I typed 'my' instead of 'our'? Boy that is hard to do.

Anyhow - and I think this relates to what we are talking about - the cat frequently will come in - wrap around me - and want to go out again. This is especially true if I have been gone. He might do this a couple of times in a row - and then he stays out.

This behavior has increased since Ellen died. Soooo, I suspect he is checking things out and making sure that his world (me in this case) is still here.

I think 'coming back home' for me is just a form of checking to see if my world is still here. After all this is where all the memories (in physical things) exist of Ellen, and it is also the only place I feel safe in. Anyplace else in the world I still feel ALONE - but here at home, despite the loneliness, the walls and things comfort me with their familiarity.

So, for whatever reason, sickness or not, I love coming home!

I'll bet we feel differently in a year or so. Guess I'll find out........

Hugs too.

Dave
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Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 08:28:54 -0700

Subject: Egg hunt

Hi Please thank Leigha and Jasmine for the neat card.

I really appreciated it.

Lee and I finally got to talk! Good to hear from him.

Was laid down and out this weekend - Friday I had a real sore throat. My doctor's office worked me in and I left with an Rx. Good thing I had it. By Friday evening I was too weak to do the horses or anything. Tried to sleep early but I had taken an antihistamine and that particular brand keeps me awake.

Part of Saturday was one of the most miserable days I've had in years. Things picked up about 3 or 4 - and I managed to do the horses and take my walk. Actually felt great.

This morning a little under the weather, but in an hour I get to take the next pill (some kind of new antibiotic - take daily for 5 days and it lasts for 10) and I suspect I'll feel good enough to keep that church and volunteering date. Throat is still sore but lots stuff is coming up, so I know the end is in sight.

Hope you all have a great Easter and even better dinner. I'll be thinking of you.

Hugs to all, Dave
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Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 22:15:00 -0700

Subject: Re: A special day of remembering...

Hi Sandy - I'll be I missed a call at about 4:45 my time. The family line rang while I was on the other line with Glorianna. Sorry I missed you. Glorianna is sort of fine. Getting weaker in the legs, but she has a plan to call the doctor tomorrow and plans to continue walking daily (something she just resumed after being really ill after the funeral) to try and build up her strength. I happened to recall a family friend and gave her his number in case she really needs help getting to the doctors office.

I just wrote this to a grieving list I belong to, hope you don't mind the style of writing, it isn't quite as friendly as it would be if it were an original to you, but it will bring you up to date....

------ It has been a quiet week for me. After the experience last week, of realizing that the our future (as well as Ellen) was dead, emotions have levelled out for me (I think).

By that I mean I've been fairly stable and able to think about things and recall things without the great pain of the earlier weeks. It still hurts but in a different way. And when I goof up around the house, I can recall a joking sentence or two of Ellen's and say it and apply it to my actions and recall the humor she shared with me. I still break out crying for no visible reason other than total loneliness. But the crying has decreased and seems more like a friend now - whereas before it seemed like the enemy. Does that make sense?

Prayer continues to be my major source of strength. I believe there is a greater power and that none of us is really ever alone.

Each week I try to share some of Ellen's clothing and some of her storeroom of material (men have lots of tools, Ellen had lots of fabric). This week was especially rewarding as the two organizations I visited went out of their way to express thanks and gratitude for the excellent gifts. This was the first time I'd been thanked like that, and it sure gave a warm feeling to the rest of the day. A number of women in our area will have a new piece of clothing or some new handmade object that started out with Ellen. It is strange to say, that doing this is now fun and rewarding - I mean Ellen no disrespect - and would much rather have her here - but since that is impossible, her gifts are creating a legacy for her and a moment or two of joy for me. Her gifts will continue for at least 3 more months, and I'll benefit from the experience.

I also jumped into the gardening with both feet. Lots of weeds are no more. Then to satisfy my wants I inherited another task which Ellen loved. The house has lots of decks over the backyard - and she really put color out there. So I bought 3 flats of flower starts (only $14 a flat) and planted 120 starts and still have 60 left. I am so proud of my work! I knew I loved what she did, now I know how much what she taught me really means!

Then Thursday and Friday I started getting sick. That is scary when one is now alone. I knew I couldn't just 'do nothing' so I saw the doctor and got on meds. Saturday was a lost day, but the medicine kicked in and is doing its stuff. I think this is one of my greatest fears - to be alone and to be sick. Living rurally it isn't like one can simply tell the neighbor - when the neighbor is 1/2 mile away - and there are chores to do and horses to feed and care for. I've no immediate solution, but I know I have to address this sometime. No one wants to be alone, sick and fearful, but it is a risk that some of us now face.

Today, Sunday, went just as I had planned it. I planned not to let my family control the first holiday without Ellen. So I declined invitations and set up my own Easter celebration. Mine was simple. I just volunteered to help in the community. I did not want to be with any of our family, not did I want to be with any of our friends. I found a church to go to that had an event after the service. So I went there for the service and helped in the event. The event was a birthday for a 76 year old gentleman. He had a large family gathering and it was fun to help setup, cleanup and participate. It really made this Easter a happy event and one which I will fondly remember. I didn't come up with this idea myself, it was described in a grieving handout I obtained from the funeral home.

It is my plan to continue to do this - plan my own holiday - for each of the major family holidays of this year - if I don't, those holidays will be jam packed with a lot of grief and potentially unhappy moments for me and those around me. Next year I think I will be able to handle Easter much better in a family celebration (at least I hope so).

Now, my biggest frustration is the son. I've been his 'step-father' for over 20 years. He and I are reasonably close - I think/thought. But I cannot get him to meet with me to talk about his mother, the estate or his wishes. It is only a guess, but perhaps he is unable to deal with her loss? They've not shared a roof for 18 years and other than once a month phone calls, there wasn't a lot of conversation. But still she was his mother and it appeared they really loved each other. Now there are a number of items of furniture, some old childhood records, photos and items that really should be his. But he is just dragging his feet - I guess there is really nothing I can do about it, so I'm sorry I typed this up. Just really frustrated. ----

Sorry to hear about the food poisoning. I don't know. Something about ladies. You and Ellen just hate to waste food. Me? Out it goes! I don't like to eat anything that is doubtful. Hope you are really better!

Hope you get a hole in one! Never got the hang of golf, too bad, as I have lots of room to practice. Keith used to bring a club down and hit a few - but now he is in to dirt-bikes or whatever you call them. 30 speed bikes to ride off road - and he enjoys the exercise. Ellen had a 10 speed, but I never graduated beyond a 3 speed. And I have no desire to go off road on a bike, ever. Not with my back. Or with my legs.

Betty called tonight. Had a great conversation with her. Nothing really special, just nice to be in tune with someone who has nothing to gain and expects nothing from me. She and her boys went to church in Leavenworth - Unitarian - and that is a big step forward for her. Guess she goes now and then - which is more than I have done. She is a neat lady and a special daughter.

Well, I've about reached the end of this day. Grace sent a note conveying the same type of info about selling the house. Sure hope it works out. She also has started typing in sentences and paragraphs. It really makes it easier to read and I think it helps her put her thoughts together.

Hope you have a great week to and that you reclaim some of that personal time! Love, Dave
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Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 22:22:32 -0700

Subject: Re: Egg hunt

Hi - Yep, I got meds real early - I didn't like the feel of what I had and didn't want to go into a weekend, alone, and sick. That was a repeated fear (being sick and alone) that Ellen and I both shared. So far the med seems to be working.

Please keep your eye on Ken - Don't let him snow you!

The day went exceedingly well. A good church service - not as traditional as I would have liked, but certainly motivating - if birth, death and resurection can be described that way.

Had an opportunity to help a family celebrate a gentleman's 76 birthday and really had a good time. It was a 'family' event without the emotional baggage that I would carry into our family. So it went well. I was gone over 6 hours and beat by the time I got home. Then it was time to pick manure, etc., feed the critters and feed me.

Easter is a time for reflection and celebration. The message I've learned over the years stood by me well today and I am the better for it. And this is why I wanted to do it this way - have a chance to fully participate and be accepted and yet commemorate Ellen. It is a step forward into the future.

Love to all, Dave
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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 07:27:16 -0700

Subject: Re: [MM] Joan E. Feci, another angel

Steve,

Your words were a solemn reminder of the fragility of life and I mourn with you at the loss of Joan.

Her death is a true loss for you and my heart goes out to you in many ways.

I wish I could shield you from the pain and the sorrow that you feel, but there is no way to do that. The death of Joan has started you on yet another journey, this time Joan will be your caregiver in ways you have yet to experience.

If I can be of any help you only have to ask.

This has been a help - -

God saw you getting tired when a cure was not be, so He closed His arms around you and whispered, "Come to Me".

You didn't deserve what you went through, and He gave you rest, God's Garden must be beautiful, He only takes the best.

And when I saw you sleeping, so peaceful and free from pain, I could not wish you back to suffer that again.

-- The pain of your loss is so intense that these words will be like a trees in front of a hurricane. Perhaps one seed from one tree can someday create a forest to protect you.

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 15:54:15 -0400

Subject: [MM] Interesting and maybe OT

All,

Catching up on my reading while doing Aredia today I found the following article to be quite interesting. This is philosophy, not MM treatment, and perhaps off target for the group. It's short, however, and the full text is at http://www.nejm.org/content/2000/0342/0009/0654.asp.

"Death and the Research Imperative" NEJM, March 2, 2000. Vol. 342, No. 9

First paragraph:

For several years, there has been an awareness of the often harmful power of the "technological imperative" in the care of dying patients -- that is, the compulsive use of technology to maintain life when palliative care would be more appropriate. There is another imperative that now deserves more attention in assessing the care of dying patients: the research imperative. It stems from the view that medicine has an almost sacred duty to combat all the known causes of death. Underlying this view is the assumption, usually tacit, that death is the principal evil of human life.

........

Last paragraph:

Modern medicine, at least in its research aspirations, seems to have made death public enemy number 1. It is not -- at least not any longer in developed countries, with the average life expectancy approaching 80 years.

The enemies now are serious chronic illness and an inability to function well. Death will always be with us, pushed around a bit to be sure, with one fatal disease superseded by another. For every birth, someone long ago happened to notice, there is one death. We cannot and will not change that fact. But we can change the way people are cared for at the end of life, and we can substantially reduce the burden of illness. It is not, after all, death that people seem to fear the most, and certainly not in old age, but a life poorly lived. Something can be done about that.

Lem from Bowie MD,

5*MP/3*dex/harvest/14*dex/Aredia
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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 21:37:50 -0700

Subject: Re: [MM] Interesting and maybe OT

First paragraph:

For several years, there has been an awareness of the often harmful power of the "technological imperative" in the care of dying patients -- that is, the compulsive use of technology to maintain life when palliative care would be more appropriate. There is another imperative that now deserves more attention in assessing the care of dying patients: the research imperative. It stems from the view that medicine has an almost sacred duty to combat all the known causes of death. Underlying this view is the assumption, usually tacit, that death is the principal evil of human life.

........

Hi Lem - I find your post interesting - having viewed the topic from both ends of the telescope I've some comments - and now that I am in a grief support group every two weeks I see some of the results of the 'technological' and 'research' imperatives. The lasting results are not always what the family anticipated.

The last paragraph of your post rings true, though I submit, in our American culture, death is truly feared and truly misunderstood.

If this topic opens up on the MM list I 'might' offer some comments, in the meantime, bravo to you for posting it!

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 21:37:50 -0700

Subject: Re: [MM] Interesting and maybe OT

First paragraph:

For several years, there has been an awareness of the often harmful power of the "technological imperative" in the care of dying patients -- that is, the compulsive use of technology to maintain life when palliative care would be more appropriate. There is another imperative that now deserves more attention in assessing the care of dying patients: the research imperative. It stems from the view that medicine has an almost sacred duty to combat all the known causes of death. Underlying this view is the assumption, usually tacit, that death is the principal evil of human life.

........

Hi Lem - I find your post interesting - having viewed the topic from both ends of the telescope I've some comments - and now that I am in a grief support group every two weeks I see some of the results of the 'technological' and 'research' imperatives. The lasting results are not always what the family anticipated.

The last paragraph of your post rings true, though I submit, in our American culture, death is truly feared and truly misunderstood.

If this topic opens up on the MM list I 'might' offer some comments, in the meantime, bravo to you for posting it!

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 22:22:22 -0700

Subject: [MM] Way Off topic: Musing on causes

Our local paper ran a story this morning on exposures to pesticides. Part of it went like this: (I am still obsessed with MM causes) ==== Fenske said the UW study of 109 children in the two counties is the first using biological measurements -- urine samples -- to show children are being exposed to possibly unsafe levels of pesticides.

The study is being published in the June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health.

Some children in the study were exposed to levels as much as 20 times the safety standards set for adults by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But most who exceeded the limits were no more than three times over.

For safety reasons, federal exposure limits are lower than the levels that experts guess might be harmful, said Fenske, director of the UW's Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

==== While the article focuses on 'pesticides' I think the correct word could instead be 'contaminants' and I am not picking on pesticides.

It is interesting in that the article states "levels that experts 'guess' might be harmful" and yet also downplays the levels found in the kids as being 'only 3 time' the limit.

As we fight our common battle - one has to wonder what we were exposed to years ago - before these intelligent guesses guided our actions. And so today we are still facing levels of contaminants that are 'guessed' to be safe. I can hardly wait until these same folks start genetic testing - - - - -

Dave Palmer I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
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Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 09:48:54 -0700

Subject: "My friend, I care"

At a Grief meeting last night this was a handout:

Don't tell me that you understand Don't tell me that you know.

Don't tell me that I will survive, How I will surely grow.

Don't tell me this is just a test, That I am truly blessed, That I am chosen for this task, Apart from all the rest.

Don't come at me with answers That can only come from me, Don't tell me how my grief will pass That I will soon be free.

Don't stand in pious judgment Of the bounds I must untie, Don't tell me how to suffer, And don't tell me how to cry.

My life is filled with selfishness, My pain is all I see, But I need you, I need your love, Unconditionally.

Accept me in my ups and downs, I need someone to share, Just hold my hand and let me cry, And say, "My friend, I care."

Joanetta Hendel Bereavement Magazine

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 21:21:42 -0700

Subject: re:Interesting or maybe not

I guess my main concern is this: that when my Mom reaches her final approach to the Pearly Gates, I would hope that she dies with the true dignity she has lived with. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the article Lem gave us.

I appologize for the size of this e-mail. Hi Lianne - I sense, from your mail, that you are where I have been. Almost alone, scared and terribly afraid of decisions and support for you and your Mom. It is a hellish place to be, and I've no magic words to ease your pain - other than I, and many others before you, know that you - like us - will do everything you can.

First I hope you are seeing an oncologist. You mentioned only nurses. Your Mom is in treatment and treatment can work wonders. Colds can be serious, but antibiotics can work wonders. Be aggressive in seeking treatment for the treatable conditions. Give your Mom all the tools she needs to help her now.

Your description of your Mom's dignity is brief, but powerful. I suspect she will someday far in the future die with that dignity intact - as long as she has your permission and the support of the doctor(s).

Lem wrote or copied information on the the 'technological' and 'research' imperatives. To me these are code words for 'let's do everything medical science knows about' to prolong life.

Neither Ellen or I supported that approach. Ellen was ready and willing to try any traditional solution that did not destroy her quality of life. She was not willing to be a guinea pig - her words - so that a doctor could make the next payment on a Mercedes - again her words. On one visit to a specialist she left feeling like a bug in a petrie dish.

I think there is a time and a place for new and innovative treatments. In our case there were many things one could 'try' but our sense of it was that these were bandaids used to try and heal a bad case of the mumps - in other words the solution wouldn't really match the overall problem. The bandaid might hold up a swollen jawbone, but it wouldn't address the underlying problem at all.

She had several cycles of VAD. It did work for her. We might have given up on it too soon. But... who knows? Early on we lept on Aredia, and Ellen was among the first patients without a transplant to try thalidomide. Thalidomide did work for a long time, and when it stopped other problems suddenly began.

Lianne, I am rambling. Please write back to me with specific questions or comments? I could ramble on and on, but I'm not sure I am helping you with the decisions you face.

Before I sign off tonight, there are two documents you must have if you want your Mom to have the freedom to die with dignity. First you must have a medical directive for your hospital or hospice situation and with the goes a medical power of attorney.

The other major document is a Do Not Resuscitate order - which covers the situation where your Mom is suddenly transported by ambulance - in our state those medical teams are duty bound to sustain life at any cost - and that cost is ususally the dignity of the patient.

Many life saving interventions are extremely invasive and they are effective, but the end result may not be what you or your Mom really wants.

I wish I could hug you both - you are on a journey that is unique in life and there is no way I can really help you - but you are both in my prayers.

P.S. There is nothing heroic about me. I simply bleed easily for everyone fighting this miserable monster. I get angry with each new case and I mentally scream everytime we lose another human being. We can spend millions on one boy from Cuba - yet 12,000 or more people (that's a good size town here in Washington) die every year and nobody even notices....

Take care, be gentle with yourself

Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 21:57:17 -0700

Subject: 3rd grief group, go ahead and delete!

And time goes on - you don't need to read this pity letter - Yesterday afternoon was the third grief group meeting for me since Ellen died 2/8/2000.

For the first time I felt truly comfortable and for the first time I was able to talk out loud without the long pauses to regain composure and the inability to think.

Today I was down in the well again. The emotional highs and lows are sometimes too much. I want to get off this roller-coaster - but it won't slow down.

At one time today I all but shouted how tired I am of 'caring' or 'taking care' of things. I just long for someone to take care of me for a change. Ellen's death ended one wonderful form of caregiving, but new things keep popping up on the surface. An uncommunicative son, a probate process, even my favorite car has developed a joint-popping sound, and there are all the bills to pay, and on and on and on. It seems some days that things just never end. And I haven't cleaned house (other than the kitchen area) in 6 weeks - though guilt finally drove me to sweep the garage floor tonight. (I can and do wash clothes and sheets!)

It really isn't as bad as I make it sound. I am just tired. Wish there was a pill that would give one a 3 week vacation in one night of sleep.

All the things in that poem I posted this morning are true. Don't tell me I will survive, that it is just a test, that I am chosen for this task, that my grief will pass, or how to suffer - for my life is filled with selfishness, my pain is all I see - I need someone to share, hold my hand and let me cry - and those were all the things that Ellen did so well for me...

Then to top it off today, my sister sent a poem (bless her heart she didn't know) that started out with:

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:

I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands to pass their freshness over me once more; I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

And that was the last thing I did for Ellen - so today - despite the success of yesterday has been one of those days that I'd just as soon never experience ever again.

Yet I had lunch with a friend whose wife is and has been on oxygen for years, she can't bathe or do some of the personal chores, she is basically wheel chair bound, her memory is gone and he has to have outside help - and I thanked God I wasn't walking in his shoes. What a confusing time of life this is.

Guess this is a real email pity party letter. Down deep I know it will pass, but I live most of the time on the surface and it is really stormy up here right now. Hope the long range emotional weather forecast improves!!

Thanks for being here - of all the folks I meet and see - few are willing to even mention Ellen anymore - at least here there is an acknowledgement that each of us was once a part of someone else's life. THANK YOU!

Dave Palmer "Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." - Will Rogers
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Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 17:15:57 -0700

Subject: re-introduction

I think there are some new people on the list.

I wish there were more active men on the list. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote and that I am the only man with mental windmills to fear and attack.

Thought I'd reintroduce myself -

My name is Dave.

I came here shortly after my wife, Ellen, died on 2/8/2000. She died suddenly of pneumonia though she was fighting Multiple Myeloma.

This group was confusing at first because I joined amidst the grieving of others, but very quickly I found a home and lots of loving and caring support.

I can say without a doubt these past weeks have been unlike anything I ever knew. All the anxiety, fear, stress, anger, loneliness, tears and terror that I had ever known in the rest of my life seemed to be piled up against me again, just since her death.

I finally picked an image of grief. It is a roller coaster in the shape of a figure 8 or a bow-tie. The peaks are at the ends and the valley is in the middle and you whip around a corner and either go down in the valley of misery or up on a hill of temporary happiness.

I just wish there was a tail on it so I could get off someday.

There have been numerous good times. They seem to come more frequently and they seem to last longer. I've had company, good and bad, I had a great Easter (though I left family alone and chose to volunteer at a church).

I've chosen to donate Ellen's clothing and craft supplies slowly, a little bit each week, to senior citizen centers (they love boxes of fabric and yarns) and a clothing bank (where less fortunate can get some good clothing). This slower pace and willingness on my part make it easier for me to deal with this part of the death and separation. It is better than the raid the daughter in law did on the sewing and craft room.

I use prayer a lot. Several times a day. It is of immeasurable value.

I also visit a psychiatrist and a grief support group. They both are great for me. Like this online group, the grief group members are from a lot of different backgrounds and they aren't judgemental, they haven't told me how to think or what to do. Sometimes talking is all I need - and right now I feel like my physical friends have dropped by the wayside and so e-friends and support groups are valuable to me.

I find two books: "How We Die" and "How to go on living after someone you love dies" to be invaluable. The first helped the most right after Ellen died - and I've not reread it. The 2nd book I open up almost everyday and read whatever page it opens to. Both are available from online stores and may be in you local library.

I wish family and friends were more open to talking, but they are not.

I wish there were tips and guides on dealing with the legal issues and family after a death - but I've not found any. The frustration that goes with uncommunicative relatives only compounds the grief process and ultimately increases the grief period.

I wish I weren't on this journey, but I couldn't have better support and care than I've received from you folks. I hope our road gets smoother soon.

Love to all, and Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 10:45:11 -0700

Subject: Ramblings, really too long

Dear Joyce - Suzy - Barbara, and all -

Thank God for this group of people. The email this morning really gave me a jolt and and started some new thinking and some new pains... but all of it is valuable and without this group it would be months before I started thinking about some of the issues I'm now able to face today.

My heart really goes out to our common pain. It is week 12 for me. I can be as happy as the just returned barn swallows or as miserable as I can be from one moment to the next.

My worst days are the days when I think I am doing okay by myself. Whenever I go along thinking I am fine, then wham! something happens to bring me down.

The days that I remember that I am recovering from a major trauma and that I need help are the days that I truly feel better. I get help those days by having background music playing, I get help by talking out loud to myself (hey dummy, don't go there!) and I get help by praying and I get help by acknowledging I hurt. Of the 4 things, prayer and acknowledging I hurt, seem to work best.

Now that I am typing about it, I can recall a recovery period from back surgery. When I was recovering, I was extremely careful not to do anything which would aggravate the surgery, I still walked, sat, moved around and did things, but I didn't do things which would hurt me. And I tried to care of myself. Today, years later, I still say "hey dummy, don't do that, it isn't good for your back!" - as I have to protect myself from future injury which really can happen. I'm not paranoid about it, I just need to exercise reasonable cautions. When I don't, it hurts!

If I think about Ellen's death and the injury done to my emotional health and if I, now, think about it - I feel best when I 'take care of' that injury, by remembering I have been injured and by compensating for it by being careful. Does that make sense? Prayer certainly is one of the tools that helps me acknowledge and at the same time try and find a comfortable way to continue on.

My big problem, and you can tell by how my email posts swing in moods, is that I get over confident and think I am doing great. The fact is I hurt, the fact is I feel lousy at times, and the fact is I need to be careful about what I do.

My grief support group is 30+ miles away. I would drive up to 60 miles to get the support that it provides. Ours is run by the hospice program that is part of the hospital chain (Sisters of Providence). It is intended for folks who have been in their hospice program, but they do not turn anyone away.

Joyce: "How we die" was written by Sherwin Nuland and published by Vintage Books, Random House in January 1995.

Suzy, I loved it! You actually threw your telephone! I think that is fantastic. Too bad the turkey wasn't in the room!

One thing that is surfacing through Ellen's death is the fact that friendships are changing. I have no doubt that a year from now my circle of friends will not look the same. Many of them were friends of Ellen first - and then friends of the Ellen and Dave couple - and I suspect they will slowly go away. Others are not comfortable with a single person. They will go away. So one person's death triggers some othe slow relationship deaths too. I just look at it as just something that will happen. Not a darn thing I can do about it, and it hurts - but not as much as I thought. I just hope I can extend myself enough to make new friends - sometimes that works and sometimes it does not. Ellen, God rest her soul, was the 'friend-maker' of this couple, so I've some skills to learn....

Anyone who gave me a 'deadline' to 'get over it' would not stay in my list of friends. Companions? Maybe. But certainly not in my circle of friends. Good grief, we still have folks here in America mourning John Kennedy and other 'stars'.

So what is the big rush for any of us to get over the loss of a truly loved person? Maybe there is a problem if I am still down and out 3 years from now - for I am sure that Ellen would not want me to be that way -

Yes, they can see it in our eyes - and why not? That faraway look that I get is truly the way I feel - far, far away from where I am now. When you look through eyes filled with years of love and memories our appearance does change - especially when a tear sneaks out the corner as several are right now. What's wrong with that?

Fund-raisers - the concept is great. The emphasis, I think, is all wrong. I think we need cancer-memorial-walks. We need to remember and address the needless suffering that thousands experience each year.

Just here in America roughly 13,000 die every year just from multiple myeloma (a reasonably rare cancer). That number is more than the population of many towns in Washington state. So every year a whole town is wiped out and no one notices. (but our entire nation seems focused on one boy from Cuba!)

The common thought in America is that cancer is preventable and/or curable by exercise, diet and good mental habits. Nothing is being done to address the enironmental source of cancer - all the money goes for 'finding a cure' - hell, why don't we try preventing cancer in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I would loved to have seen a cure for Ellen, but as I am learning once cancer strikes a whole process is set in motion, and sometimes a 'cure' is just not possible. Long term intervention? Yes, but 100% cures, no.....

It isn't only the deaths from cancer that trouble me, it is the thousands of us left grieving in a nation, maybe in a world, that has lost touch with the grief process and grief work that we need to go throuogh.

I looked for a way out of this long, rambling note and the last paragraph in "How to go on living" seems to pull things together. It comes at the point she has written about recovery from grief and has explained that you can never recover totally, because you will never be exactly the same way you were before. She had described recovery from the loss as a psychic scar -

A Final Perspective

"And, in the end, this moving forward with that scar is the very best that we could hope for. You would not want to forget your loved one, as if they had never existed or not been an important part of your life. Those things that are important to you in your life are remembered and kept in the very special places of your heart and mind. This is no less true with regard to the loss of a beloved person. Keep this loss, treasure what you have learned from it, take the memories that you have from the person and the relationship and, in a healthy fashion, remember what should be remembered, hold on to what should be retained, and let go of that which must be relinquished. And then, as you continue on to invest emotionally in other people, goals, and pursuits, appropriately take your loved one with you, along with your new sense of self and new way of relating to the world, to enrich your present and future life without forgetting your important past."

You folks are certainly becoming part of my new relationships and you have enriched my life this day.

Love to all, and Regards, Dave MM Caregiver 1996-2000
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Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 09:51:01 -0700

Subject: Delightful

Merrily,

It was delightful to hear from you yesterday. Thank you for calling me.

Sorry you and Mack have to be on the road and out of town so much. You are going to own the grooves in I-5 pretty soon. I pray for continued medical success and for your safety too.

On my highway there aren't any grooves. In fact the road is sometimes hard to see. Now that I've started that train of thought, it might explain why this journey requires a lot of time and why there are so many detours.

I've adopted the flower garden as my own. Wow!

That was a big decision. Having made it I'm enjoying some hours weeding, pruning and trying to identify what it is that I have. I'm glad Ellen created it, though at times in the past I debated the issue, I find I thoroughly enjoyed and enjoy the colors - so the adoption was a natural thing for me to do. If I want beauty and color it will take my effort.

I wanted color back on the decks - and jumped into a 3 flats of plants - and they are beginning to add some color to that view of the world.

Between us'ns. I am learning, with amazement, how difficult it is for many people to talk with me anymore. It as though they are, or must be, afraid to ask or say anything that might, in their view, cause discomfort. It's a two-edged sword - as that silence not only limits conversation, it tends to ignore the realities of life. Oh well - another set of experiences to add to the inventory. As one author wrote, it is not a choice of pain or no pain, but how you will manage the pain for today.

So today I'm off and about - eventually to go to a retirement party for Jan Strong in McCleary, do some chores, take care of bookwork and settle in for quiet evening later.

Again, thanks for calling, thanks for caring and thanks for being a friend.

Prayers, love and hugs to all, Dave
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