Copyright September 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.

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Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 20:14:35 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Grief at six months

I am learning that I cannot predict the course of grief nor can I predict my response.

Dear Andi, I thank God you made it through this day. The anniversary days are tough.

Ellen's 6 month date was the 8th, her birthday was the 9 th. Two tough days.

Son Keith joined me on the 8th and granddaughter Leigha joined me on the 9th.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

As you said, there is no way to predict responses - but I'd practiced thinking about what might take place those days, and the mental practice did help to ease the pain.

Somehow the days passed and the world seems better, and I pray your world is too.

Hugs,

Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000] A Personal E-mail Grief Diary: http://www.theblackriver.net/grief/griefindex.html "Grief is not a problem to be cured.

It is simply a statement that you have loved someone." Doris Sanford

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Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 21:31:11 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Grit

On Sat, 12 Aug 2000 15:18:45 EDT, Denise Horvath wrote:

Your words were so helpful to me. I too am trying to provide some structure to my day which is hard because I am the sole caregiver to my husband, who is slowly slipping away after a 3 year battle with cancer. Everyone seems amazed that we have both lasted this long but I believe grit is somewhat responsible. I cherish the time we have together and we move at our own pace in a world that is so different.

Dearest Denise, Your words helped restore a part of my memory that was almost hidden.

I was honored, and I do mean honored, to be the sole caregiver for Ellen, much like you are for your husband.

During that period some of the days seemed unbearable - but I only had to see the strength, devotion and faith that Ellen projected through it all, to know that those were indeed moments to treasure and honor.

Your "I cherish the time we have together" - brought back some fond and loving memories - and it is strange to type these words in that way. The death of our loved ones does bring about a dramatic period of grief, pain and anguish.

The compensating knowledge that you have 'cherished the time' and done all that you could, will be among the biggests assets as you someday start the journey alone.

As you continue along on this journey with your husband, and someday without him, I hope you continue to, as you say, 'ramble on'. It helps all of us.

Your thoughts, today, are valuable to me and serve as a reminder of the fraility of life and the value of true love and compassion such as you are showing and giving your husband.

God Bless You!

Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000]

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Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 21:54:19 -0700

Subject: [F-AHEAD] Off topic: Friendly advice -

Dear Family - This is off topic, but really related to each caregiver.

Your health is important!

As we go through caregiving and then grief some of us might suffer a lot of symptoms and some doctors write them off as 'you're under a lot of stress or in grief'.

Speaking only through the voice of experience I'd offer a suggestion to any who are feeling something isn't quite right. See your doctor and have a good chat and make sure they understand your concerns. Your 'symptoms' might not be 'stress or grief' related.

A case in point - one of my meds really induced extreme fatigue and dizziness and for months after Ellen's death it was blamed on grief. Once the medicine was stopped those 'symptoms' vanished.

Another case in point - once those symptoms were gone, and to satisfy me, the doctor ordered another test - which uncovered something else - and again, had I accepted the earlier 'stress and grief' diagnosis - this second condition would never have been detected until much too late.

Thanks to a) my complaining and b) a compassionate doctor - I've plans in place to address a pretty serious condition.

Bottom line - listen to your body, your mind and don't assume that all the difficulties you might be feeling can be blamed solely on grief and grieving. During the caregiving process and through much of the grief process, I think we run almost entirely on adrenalin. When that starts running out, we finally begin to feel some things that might change us from caregivers and grievers into patients.

I've talked in circles so far - but in my case, (I'm not looking for sympathy - though prayer is always welcome for everyone of us) the symptoms buried a heart condition and Monday morning I become the patient - for angioplasty and 2 stents, followed by surgery in 4 weeks to replace an aneurysm.

So please, please take care of yourselves - be it diet, sleep, exercise or whatever. As a parent, sibling, child, friend or spouse - caregiver or griever - others, including members on this list, love and depend upon you and you are important to them and needed by them.

Hugs to all,

Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000]

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Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 14:12:46 -0700

Subject: September: Sweetness and Sorrow

Dear All, Silent as I've been, my eyes - heart and emotions have followed the many poignant tellings of the grief that face so many every day. My heart goes out to one and all.

My long silence was fed with a renewed grief today as I prepared some pictures of Ellen for the "Everyday Heros" event of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship program.

The fresh tears and wonderfully fond memories of Ellen served to remind me how deep and permanent the roots of love and grief are. Even with the joy of a new love and anticipation that a new relationship brings, I was once again reminded that the death of a truly loved spouse is something that can pleasantly mark one for life.

I think I've known this for some time, but today, with the sun beeming brightly, and fall colors all around me, it was significant to find out how deep that past love was. It was nice to learn one person can be filled with such a sense of loss - yet not have it compete or be threatened by a new love.

My few words of encouragement to others who have lost a loved one, are that it seems possible for humans to continue to love and honor the past (with all the pain) and yet experience new love. The very dark emotional clouds that surrounded me in many months of this year have parted, there is blue emotional sky, and yes storm clouds do share the emotional sky - but no more and no less than in the real sky outside my window.

Having said all that - the tears of loss still flow, the space Ellen occupied will never be refilled - it is just up to me as to how I will manage the pain for today.

Healing wishes, prayers and hugs to all. I wish each of had been given a different road to finish our journey on.

Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000]

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Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 21:27:11 -0700

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] moving on/letting go issues

On Sun, 17 Sep 2000 20:33:31 IST, etti g wrote:

how do i get over my feeling that im betraying my love?if i ever even talked to another guy he got jealous...

how do i deal with the feelings that there might just be someone who is more meant for me then he was?without ruining my memories of him and our relationship? how do i move on?

Etti:

My heart goes out to you. I've been in those shoes of yours, and fought the issues too.

Betray a love?

I don't think we can - even if we fall in love again. I think it is okay to loving remember our lost one - in fact it would be impossible for me to ever forget Ellen - but at the same time - I know it is possible to build a new love, with a new person. We've many examples in our lives. Most of us love our parents, most of us love a sibling, and yet find room for a spouse or lover - and we never question it. Some of us have lost our parents and yet our love for them continues - some of us have lost a sibling and yet the love stays.

So we can love and lose, and continue on - and when a spouse or lover is lost to death - the memory stays - and the ability to love stays and it is okay to love again -

How do deal with someone more meant for you?

I look at it this way. Throughout the years with Ellen we experienced a tremendous amount of love and growth. I learned from her what was truly important in life - and her characteristics were very important. Now if I take that knowledge and all that our love taught me and someday find myself with someone very desirable, then I have to admit that my loved one and I learned a lot from each other and now I am using our past love to guide me in my future.

I think it is simply wonderful that you are feeling happiness and warm fuzzy feelings again! Enjoy them fully and wallow in them. Take what you've learned from life and let it help you find a fresh, fun and fulfilling way to live the rest of your life!

As the days go by, enjoy your new life, yet leave some space and freedom for you to deal with the grief of your loss. Those feelings will continue to come and go like ripples in a stream.

Hugs and best wishes! Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000]

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Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 15:34:15 -0700

Subject: A Grief letter

Dear Ellen,

This began as a homework assignment for grief. Of course, you know that. It is May 3, 2000. You have been dead since February 8th. That was one terrible day for me, and I have no idea what kind of day it was for you.

If I had started this then, it would be a painful letter to write. The agony that the living human feels is so intense that I can't believe it even now. A lot of self pity, and yet a great, tremendous sense of total emptiness. That is how I recall it. Just a huge, bottomless, never ending void. Like falling down the worst dark hole you've ever dreamed of.

I worried so about you the night you died. We did the best we could have done and we did everything we needed to. I learned later how much damage the cancer had done to your bone marrow. The numbers aren't important but your bone was full of material that should not have been there. Guess we were lucky that we didn't know those results. No knowledge in this case saved us a lot of agony.

But had we known, we might have finished up some unsaid things and undone paperwork. However I know you left this physical world feeling very loved and very supported. One more last 'I love you' would have been nice, but how many times can we try and say the 'last' one. Since we always meant what we said, it matters not when it was last said.

I love you so much. I feel cheated without you, and yet I know that God gave you a selection of choices and you chose the very best one. As always you made the correct decision - I simply wasn't ready for it, but I guess I would never be ready unless we were to die together. Think that was what we both hoped for, but hope doesn't always produce reality.

I'm learning so much about you in all the things I am now doing that you did so quietly. I am learning a lot about myself as I surrender your worldly possessions to others, and as I fight to keep some for me. I am still holding on to the trinkets that symbolize you so well, even though they sometimes bring tears to my eyes.

Lee and I haven't built any strong paths or bridges. I feel almost afraid of him. Or is it Dawn. Or is it Dawn and Lee? After they raided your craft room, my antenna went up and it hasn't come down since then.

Since we didn't have a will I have to do probate (you knew that didn't you!) and Lee and I have to meet and talk. But we haven't.

Your friends still remark about you. You are deeply missed. Your time on earth really wasn't meant to end so soon. The Master Gardeners are planting a memorial rose for you at the fairgrounds. Neat!

Your clothes are adorning some women in our area, thanks to the clothing bank. Your fabrics and patterns are helping the senior citizens in the area too. So one way or another you are making a real impression on a lot of people. As I sit here and type this, your pictures close to me (TJ's and cinnamon rolls - and the new front door in Creswell) bring happiness and tears to my eyes. Damn, grief work is hard! Where are you when I need you? I know you are on my shoulder.

I've talked to God quite a bit. Hopefully God shares prayers with you. If not I've asked him to reach out to you every way he can and to assure you that you are loved, that you are and were important here on earth and that you are missed.

You likely know that I am not always doing well. Somedays are better than others. Generally they are getting better. But it is hard work! I am trying.

I have adopted the garden as my own. I am being careful and loving. I am taking photos and marking plants. I like, no I love it! I planted 120 seedlings. Can you imagine that? Me? Too bad you aren't here to witness it.

The horses are holding their own. Cloudy is really slowing down. She looked like a shaggy camel earlier, but her hair is back no normal and she looks slim and trim - almost too slim. I've boosted her feed, but I can't compensate for nature. If she goes this year, it will be another major loss for me.

How many losses can I take? I sure don't know.

You'll be pleased, I hope, my swearing has diminished. Even a little bit of anger is now a waste and surely not important when compared to what you went through.

I am so proud of you and the way you lived. You were a saint here on earth. It isn't fair that saints are allowed to die. We need more saints, not fewer. I have tried to stay in communication with Leigha. Guess I'm not doing very well. I promise I will try some more. Maybe a card a week just to her will help. I sure don't know. She spent a few days with me and we had a great time. Hopefully we spend some more time together. I am going to hold back on some of your things as later gifts for her. Hope it works out okay.

I am seeing Sam Bradley again. He now has prostate cancer. He sat "next to you" today. He recalls where you used to sit. He really like you. He has fond memories of you.

I am in a grief group. It helps. As you know the first time I could barely talk. The second time was a little bit better. The third time I had diarrhea of the mouth - you know about that condition, don't you?

Give me some advice on a memorial, would you?

I'm thinking about reconnecting with GPHS classmates. Maybe you have a twin sister someplace? I'm just not good at loneliness. But I am patient, and your twin may not have been born yet. In that case I will go to my grave alone.

The GPHS reunion seems like a safe way to take a minivacation, maybe, ha!, reconnect with Dave Jr., see the folks graves and get away from all the stuff around here for a few days. I'll see if I really get guts enough to do it. Betty is volunteering to house sit, so that base is covered. No, I'm not bothered that you and Betty didn't resolve things. Some things are not resolvable and that is okay with me.

I'm smoking too much and sleeping too little. But I am trying to decrease one and increase the other. I've started walking again. I am out of shape, but I am trying to do better. Just a lot to do when there is only one person here.

I love our home and God willing, I don't see myself leaving it. We loved it for all the right reasons, we cared for it, you planted it, and I will now care for it in honor of you and for me.

I talk to your Mom almost weekly. She is a dear! And I do love her in my own way. She has been a lady to me and she loved you dearly and in her own way. I wish things had been better for both of you. But in your absence she is letting her love for you grow. And that is neat.

The swallows are back, the robins came the day you died, or was it the day after? The hummers are back in force. Swallowing up hummerjuice as fast as they can. The killdeer are still nesting in the gravel. Wish I could put up a 'nest here' sign for them on the gravel pile where it would be safe.

Lilly is Lilly. What more can I say.

Spartacus has been different. Only stayed in our room a couple of nights since you died. Yet before that he was a constant companion. Strange. I fret over him too much, but he is an important link between you and me.

I love you Poopsie. Always remember that! In all ways and always.

You are in my prayers every night. You are in my life every day. You are on my shoulder - please just nudge me once in a while so I know you are there? I miss the hugs, I miss the "I love you", I miss you!

Take care, enjoy Heaven, plant lots of roses and enjoy the butterflies!

See you in my dreams - or at least in my prayers.

Just had to add how wonderful your Memorial Service was. You watched it I hope! Merrily was terrific, and Warren Hall was fantastic. You could tell that your single life made one hell of an impression on a lot of people and a lot of people were touched by you. A lot of people lost a lot when you died.

You are a giant in the human race and you are missed.

Love, always Dave

P.S. this is a work in progress. I think I will be adding to it. It helps to 'talk' to you this way. Weird, aren't I?

It is June 13, 2000. Not much has changed and a lot has changed.

The grief work is work, and in many ways things have improved. But there is still a lot of hidden pain and agony. Rereading the earlier letter brought that to the surface.

I'm cleaning up you space in the physical house. The bathroom is cleaned out, the knickknacks are photographed and packed away. A lot of paperwork has been assembled to organize and eventually pass on to Lee. I cleaned out you file cabinets and that hurt a little. But not as much as it would have a few weeks ago

The yard is looking good. Most of the flowers are doing well, despite the heavy rains in June.

I pray daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

I've visited Lee, Dawn, Jasmine and Leigha. It was a birthday party. It was no different than others, except maybe more drinking - I felt uncomfortable, but Leigha was wonderful and Jasmine has gotten better. Lee is driving truck and Dawn has a full time job.

Pat O'Brien died suddenly June 2, 2000 - but you know that. I went to the funeral and I've stayed in touch with Jere. Together we might help each other heal.

Saw Freida Lessler. Hank had died 3 weeks earlier. You knew that too. It was good to see her. She is a dear lady. Linda Geis and I visited. I learned good grief will be with me all the rest of my life.

Now, August 20th.

June 15, shortly after the last note, I met your twin. Of course you know about that too. What started out months ago as an occasional contact at a Senior Center, where I was donating your craft items weekly, suddenly blossomed into me inviting someone out on a date - much the same way I invited you out, way back on Christmas Eve of 1978.

Judith and I progressed rapidly through an intense period of foundation building and lengthy conversations. We talked about you, we talked about your and I, and we talked about Judith and I.

As God will have it, dear Cloudy joined you in July. The dear horse has been so faithful and good for all these many years. She was gaining weight, looked great and I thought all was well. One day she looked 'strange' to me as she walked out to the pasture. But, heck, I look strange lots of days too. Later that afternoon Esai (who was visiting for a week with Leigha) and I noticed the horses were calling in a different way. Later I noticed Cloudy laying down. Sometime later Esai and I walked out and Cloudy had simply laid down and died. I called Judith at her home and she came to help me with Leigha. All in all things went well. Mike Mitchell arrived and artfully dug a trench and buried Cloudy standing up and facing the rising sun. It helped all of us. The next day Leigha and I added one of your memorial plants to the burial site and I think it helped Leigha reach some comfort level.

On July 23rd we were married. It was truly a wonderful coming together of the past, present and future. Lee, Dawn, Leigha, Jasmine, and Dawn's parents, as well as many other people you and I knew, joined with many others at the marriage celebration. It was an unusual celebration as Judith and I publicly acknowledged that she and I would not have met - except through you - and the death you experienced. It is a sobering thought and one which we acknowledge daily.

You no doubt know that Judith, without knowledge or comments from me, chose "Amazing Grace" as her wedding march. It was especially poignant for many of us, as that song was the solo piece which your brother played at the conclusion of your memorial service.

For whatever reasons, and for whatever purpose, our relationship ended with a song which began another relationship. The relationship between the two events is not lost on me.

Now, 7 months later, we are still missing you. Judith and I are happy, but your presence is acknowledged and appreciated in our relationship. Leigha is still having trouble dealing with your death, and so I think are other family members. Grief is hard work and it is so easy to push it aside and try to forget. But, as I learned some time ago, one has to face the loss, deal with the pain, and begin to return to life - always in love with the person who died, always honoring, respecting and treasuring the memory.

As I said earlier:

I miss the hugs, I miss the "I love you", I miss you!

Take care, enjoy Heaven, plant lots of roses and enjoy the butterflies!

See you in my dreams - or at least in my prayers.

Dave Palmer, August 20, 2000

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Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2000 18:34:18 -0700

Subject: On rings - my thoughts and feelings

Dearest Patricia, Kathy, Andi, Sharon, Helen, Barbara, Juanita and all the others who, like us, will deal with the ring issue.

As a male, and one who chose to remarry my words might not be in line with everyones thoughts - but each of us does have to deal with the loss of our loved one in our own way and in our own time.

Minutes after Ellen died I removed her ring from her swollen finger, I removed her crucifix from her neck. Her ring became entwined with the crucifix. I wore her necklace/ring and my wedding ring.

Weeks and weeks later I realized one sunny morning that I was no longer married - my wife was dead - and the marriage (until death do you part) had ended. That was a shock. I had a great difficulty with that concept - but as I attended meetings and met people, I realized I was masquerading as someone I wasn't. I was also drawing attention to myself in a negative way, as those who knew us, knew Ellen was dead, and yet I was still displaying our symbol of marriage.

Then I had the jeweler solder Ellen's ring and my ring together over the crucifix and I wore that around my neck. It was reassuring and kept the rings close to my heart. Yet it brought discomfort as it was a constant reminder of her death and the loss - not marriage - it kept my focus on the loss and the void and with my open collar, also attracted attention of others to grief topics.

Weeks and weeks later I finally reached a conclusion that no matter how much I loved and missed Ellen the rings would not bring her back and would not release me from the constant reminders of loss and grief. By then the weather was becoming beautiful and my desires to smile, laugh and be 'normal' (whatever that might be) were constantly reined in by the emotional weight of the rings and crucifix.

I was also a 'widower' not a husband - I was alone in this world and not part of any relationship - and I was now responsible for my happiness.

Much as a full lower leg cast had helped me recover from foot surgery years ago, the cast had to come off to allow me to complete the healing process and return to normal activities. It was then that I solemnly removed the necklace and rings and they remain today where I left them on the nightstand by my bed, as a constant reminder of the great love they once encircled.

It was about that time that I wrote "I want to be able to respond to my grief in ways which honor Ellen's life, honor my love for Ellen, respect my memory of Ellen and in ways which respect my health, healing, need for life, need to grieve and allow me to participate fully in life."

My grieving was significantly influenced by what I read and studied every night. The process it took me through really allowed me to verbally deal with my grief over Ellen's death. After 20+ years of marriage and love, I had a lot of stuff swimming around in my head and heart.

I just reread part of my studies - a few things really influenced me:

"You may surprise youorself at how you extress your feeings - some grievers cannot believe they could swear so much or scream so loudly - this doesn't mean you are losing control...."

"You will have to give expression to all of your feelings, the negative ones as well as the positive ones."

"Intellecutalizing them, that is dealing with them in your head but not in your heart, will do you little good."

"You also have to change your emotional attachment to and investment in your loved one to reflect the reality that, desppite your intense wishes to the contrary, your loved one is dead and will no longer be able to interact with you as in the past. No matter how much you need your loved one, nor how much you are determined that things in your life will not change, the fact of the matter is that your loved one no longer can give you what your loved one did previously. Your loved one will no longer be able to return your emotional investment in him/her. As a result, over time your are going to have to change your emotional investment in your loved one to accommodate this fact."

"You do this gradually over time by feeling them and then letting go of their emotional charge, which had kept you connected to the deceased in the way you were when your loved one was alive and could return your investment. This is how you slowly begin to withdraw your emotional energy from your loved one and reestablish a new relationship with your loved one that is not based on the give-and-take of real life."

"The emotional energy that you withdraw from your former relationship with your loved one must be reinvested elsewhere so that it once again can return you satisfaction and gratify your needs. Your relationship with your loved one can no longer do this."

"While you may have had no control or choice over your loved one's dying, you do have a choice over how you will let the loss affect you."

"Many bereaved persons have discovered and developed new aspects of their identity that were previously unknown. They have realized new interests, found new relationships, or started living in ways that in some cases are more satissfactory and fulfilling than before. This does not mean that they were not grieved by the loss of their loved one. It only means that they responded to that loss, after the period of grief and mourning, in ways that made them become enriched by the pain."

"On the other hand, you may not want to use your loss constructively to have a better life. You may become hardened, cold, closed, and unwilling to reach out for yourself or to others. This is your prerogative; it is your choice. Just recognize that you are making it and take responsibility for it. Do not blame it on the death. And do not think that if you do do something constructive with your loss and what you have learned from it, that this means you are unmoved by the death or that you are betraying your loved one."

I'm sorry this is so long. Obviously I feel a need to write about those feelings and how I came to my decision regarding rings and things. Today, many months since Ellen's death, she is still in my heart and soul. Loving Judith has not subtracted from my love for Ellen - it will endure as long as I live - but I have learned that a new love can bring out new and different responses and that there is room in us for new happiness and new treasures - God did not create humans with a limited capacity for love - it is limitless and thanks to God it gives us the capacity and the power to overcome significant losses and still wonder at the joys of the world and find happiness in new and different ways.

I know, had I died first, I would have hoped and prayed that Ellen would find happiness and continue to live a joyous life. I pray that each of us eventually finds that happiness and joy - and that we do all we can to share it with others and encourage them to experience all that life has to offer.....

There is one last quotation:

A Final Perspective - grief as a scar

"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 she 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."

Hugs and love to all - Regards, Dave [Multiple Myeloma Caregiver 1996 - 2000]

"Grief is not a problem to be cured. It is simply a statement that you have loved someone." Doris Sanford

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Date: Mon. September 26, 2000

Subject: Re: [F-AHEAD] Goodbye to all

I find it is my time to leave the facing ahead list. My heart is both sad and happy.

A visit with my son and his wife, and their son and his wife, and a joyous weekend with my new extended family helped me to realize that it is time to make a total commitment to the future and the life that God has provided.

No words can express the extreme gratitude and fondness I have for everyone on this list nor the empathy and feelings I have for those who recently joined or will join in the future.

Even in the most grotesque and tortuous moments of grief there was always a life line through this group, and I'll forever be indebted to all who helped me.

I wish this road were devoid of travelers, but it isn't. The many who followed me are gifted and wise and the life line continues for all who join.

May your God be with each of you and may your days of sadness be transformed into days of light and happiness.

As ever and with deepest regards,

Dave
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