Tag Archives: marriage

A Beautiful Ring to It

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My wedding ring was nestled in its box for months. It is a ring I rarely took off for nearly two decades. I slept in it, cooked in it, showered in it, worked and played in it. We had the diamond put in new settings twice, both times to mark a new start and celebrate triumphs over what had threatened to break us.

Over the last few weeks, the ring has been calling to me, though not in that Lord of the Rings sort of way! It was just saying, “make me into something new.” I went to the jewelry store and was greeted by a beautiful woman who smiled graciously and asked me how she could help me. I choked up just a little and got teary as I said, “My husband passed away and I need to make this into a new ring.” With kindness, sympathy, and a sweet spirit, she guided me to a counter and worked through the details of making my ring into something new. I wanted a setting that would hold my original diamond, a sweet little thing purchased by an 18 year-old boy for his girlfriend-turned-fiancée. I also wanted it to hold stones that represented Brian’s birthstone, even though I didn’t know what that was. “Please let it be a good color,” I whispered to myself! She said she had something in mind and disappeared to another room. When she returned she had a setting that was a simple white gold band with a place for my diamond in the center and two ice blue sapphires on the side, the color of aquamarines, Brian’s birthstone. Triumph! Blue is a very good color. It was perfect. My old setting will be melted down and formed into something new and I like the idea of that. I have the magical thought that it could even end up in another young woman’s wedding ring.

The new ring is full of symbolism for me. The original stone reminds me of that time long ago… yet not so long ago… when I said “I do” and became a Lawson, a wife and soon after, a mother. My own birthstone just happens to be a diamond, so I sit sparkling at the center. The blue of the stones remind me of Brian, of course, and how pieces of him live on in memories, in our kids, and in the woman I have become through sharing our years together. The three gems represent my family of three now, myself with two sons alongside who are continuing on. And the circle of the ring is symbolic of life itself, that goes on and on through births and deaths, births and deaths. So the whole ring represents me: my life as it once was, now is, and how it will continue.

I am proudly wearing it again, but on my right hand now, where I’m sure it will stay nearly every day as I cook in it, shower in it, work and play in it. It will get dirty and be polished, just as we all are from day to day, and year to year.

Life Has a Beautiful Ring to It… and that = Joy

12:07

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The final breath came at 12:07am, May 28, 2012.

Brian finished his journey here and has moved on. He was one of the rare ones, filling 38 years with a lot of living. He left me with two perfect gifts, Brian and Jordan. He was loved, admired, respected, and treasured by so many. My hope is that he will be remembered fondly.

I’ve shared with only a select few that Brian never could picture himself growing old. He just could not see it in his mind’s eye. As a couple we had difficulty looking into the future and seeing ourselves together as grandparents, sharing our late years together. Somehow the image eluded us. Brian had a sense that cancer would take his life and just before he went into the hospital I had vivid dreams involving cancer. Premonition? Possibly. Life is mysterious.

I watched the nurses dispose of all the medications that had been keeping Brian comfortable for the past 112 days. I’m relieved that my days will no longer consist of dispensing meds and counting pills and changing patches. I looked on as a nurse carefully cleaned and dressed Brian in linen pants and a favorite tee-shirt, perfect for a walk on the beach at sunset. I carefully placed a necklace around his neck. It has a stone on it that I found on Bonita Beach, one of two. I have the matching necklace. I opened my hand to receive the wedding ring that another nurse delicately pulled off of his finger. Jordan tearfully asked if he could have it. Of course. In my own process I had tucked my wedding ring in its box and placed it in a safe place a few days ago, a step in my grieving and letting go. Family members left one by one, leaving my brother and I, along with Jordan, to watch as Brian’s body was respectfully wrapped and gently placed on a gurney. He made his final exit from home. The three of us looked at each other in the silence and then hugged one another. The suffering is over. Brian found the peace he was looking for.

Now I’m sitting alone for the first time in 112 days. Except, I’m not alone! I am surrounded by people who love me, some of whom have become incredibly precious through this journey. I’m sad that Brian’s life was cut short, but glad that it was a good life. I feel a sense of relief that the man I cared for over these months is now completely free of pain. Life is mysterious. It is precious. It is good. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Go live your life. Deeply inhale. Slowly exhale. Now live.

Life = Joy

The Over Thinker

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I’m an over thinker. I like to take a situation and look at it from all angles, fleshing out scenarios, and analyzing every detail, real or imagined. It’s not a great way to live, quite frankly. I’ve had countless imaginary conversations with people that have never taken place because they don’t follow my internal script, which has usually been carefully written and rewritten.

Grief is an odd thing, so of course I have over thought it too. I look inward and outward at the way I am grieving and I question if my method is correct, wondering how much judgment it might silently receive. People who truly love you, though, understand that grief is a personal thing. It doesn’t come in nifty pre-packaged one-size-fits-all bundles.

I’ve been grieving Brian’s imminent death longer than anyone. In fact, I started grieving it months…no, years… before his diagnosis; I just didn’t know that was the process I was going through. For the last three years I’ve been experiencing painful growth and for the past eight months the pain has been, at times, excruciating. I’ve cried so many tears sometimes that I literally lost my eyelashes from all the tissues required. I’ve known incredible loneliness, even in the most crowded of places, but also in the deafening silence of a room by myself.

My process has been unique. Sitting in a hospital room having intimate conversations about a 20-year life has made me weep with joy and sorrow. Facing the unfairness of life has filled me with anger and made me shut down, or at least shut out those around me. Laughing at the absurdity that cancer can bring has lightened the usually heavy load.

Brian is in his final days. These are the most difficult because watching someone suffer is pain like no other. In the midst of this process, watching all the changes that his body is going through, I am finding incredible peace and even happiness. Please don’t shake your head in disgust that I am happy or judge the fact that I don’t have many tears left to cry. This undertaking, for me, has been 37 months long. I’ve experienced every emotion possible and the seeds of growth in my life have been watered with my tears. I’ve had four months to say my good-bye. We have left nothing unspoken. Very soon Brian will go his way and I will go mine. He’s had a good life, a full life. In the end, he is grateful for each day of that life.

I’ve thought and over thought the last day, wondering and imagining what it will entail. I will no doubt shed a few more tears, especially as I see them fall down the cheeks of those who love Brian and don’t want him to go. I find joy, however, in Brian’s final wish for me being fulfilled. He wants me to be happy, to spread my wings, to be independent and, most of all, to be Jacqueline Joy.

Me = Joy

Utterly Normal

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Another good day! It hardly seems possible, but it’s true. There are a couple key ingredients that help a good day come together: taking naps when needed and not skipping any meds. Brian has never been a big nap taker, except on the occasional lazy Sunday afternoon. He’s always been on the move, ready for the next activity, so he’s had to learn to give in to sleep whenever it comes calling. Our endeavor of the day was walking to the mailbox. That is a bigger deal than you’d think. The mailbox isn’t at the end of the driveway, but across the street and a few houses down, so we went for a leisurely walk and I remembered to keep my abnormally quick pace under control and truly strolled. The snow is gone, thank goodness, and it was a warm-ish, sunny day.

We had a visit from our hospice chaplain today and our nurse showed up too, so the four of us just sat and talked for a while. The nurse didn’t really need to do anything because she said Brian is looking so much better; that was encouraging. They are so easy to talk to, probably because they are our age, and they are neutral. Well, somewhat neutral. They seem quite invested in us, but they can also look at our situation through different lenses, so they have interesting perspectives on what is happening. I learned a lot today, I think. I hope!

One lesson I learned is that Brian is very protective of me. He knows I will do almost anything to avoid conflict and please everyone. I’ve improved over the years, but it’s still the chink in my armor. Through all of this he has come to see just how much inner conflict I put myself through at times. Brian’s protection of me is sweet. I’m his biggest concern. I suppose that’s okay, because he’s my biggest concern. It’s a nice little system we have going!

Brian has never been a worrier, but lately he has experienced uneasiness about what he will face in the coming weeks. A few nights ago he finished brushing his teeth and then asked me, “what will happen when I can’t brush my teeth by myself anymore?” “I will brush them for you,” I replied. “But what if I can’t stand up anymore?” he inquired. “Then I’ll brush them for you while you sit down,” I said. He countered with a couple more what-ifs regarding mobility, so I finally assured him we will figure out a solution to each obstacle as we come to it. Brian is a troubleshooter and problem-solver. I can’t imagine what goes through his mind sometimes, the scenarios he must be working through and the irritation at not seeing a satisfactory solution.

As this day comes to a close I’m thankful for two people who sat in the living room with us today and let us be honest, who offered words of comfort and wisdom when needed, assured us that none of this is easy and everything we feel is okay, and made us feel utterly normal.

Numbers

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Numbers are not something I like to deal with, but lately it seems that some numbers rule my life. For instance, Sunday it was good to see Brian reach 38 years. 38 was an important number. Some numbers are encouraging and others are not.

30: the number of pounds Brian has lost in 7 short weeks. After watching that happen I never want to hear another person, including myself, complain about weight. I’d gladly take someone’s extra pounds and give them back to Brian.

1,980: the number of miles we are from our older son. Some days it feels like so many more.

4: the number of times my alarm sounds reminding us it’s time for another round of scheduled meds.

24: the number of hours Brian and I have spent alone together since February 5th, with no doctors, nurses, or visitors.

22: the number of medications I have to keep track of, some scheduled, some as needed, and others to be used when all else fails.

7: the number of days each week I go to bed hoping we will both wake up in the morning.

Yesterday was great and awful. Great because Brian had enough energy to go see his grandmother and watch a movie at my parents’ house. That doesn’t sound like much but it involved about an hour and a half in the car to get places and walking around once we arrived. Trips of any distance involve prepping portable oxygen, double-checking the meds we will need while out, packing drinks, and allowing lots of extra time for the unknowns. At 5:30pm last night the vomiting began. At bedtime it kicked into high gear and didn’t stop until around 10:30 this morning. Our nurse came over twice and listened intently, formulated her new plan with the doctors, and it seems to be working. Unfortunately new plans are probably part of the new norm.

Activity is a wonderful thing. When Brian has energy nothing feels better than getting out of the house and doing something. Anything. There’s a fine line, however, that we seem to cross too often. Just a tad too much activity and Brian crashes; the harder the crash, the longer and more complicated the recovery. That’s what we experienced last night and this morning. It would be nice to have the luxury of making plans and having things to look forward to. Right now we are at a stage where looking forward means as far as the next few hours.

Nurse Lesley, along with so many others, have asked me “how are you doing?” and my answer usually starts with “Brian is…” I avoid the question of how I am doing. Brian and I are opposites. He draws energy from being around people, from activity with others. I draw energy from being home, alone, in silence. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy people, parties, activities, etc., but I quickly become tense and drained. When Brian has too much quiet and alone time he becomes tense and drained. Finding equilibrium has been a challenge. That was a very wordy explanation to why I don’t say how I’m doing and why I’ve said before this is not about me. If I were to meet my own needs right now it would mean not allowing people to see Brian sometimes and that would mean denying a visit that could be the very last. I could not live with myself if I did that to Brian and those who care for him. A day will come when I will be home, alone, in silence. The silence will probably seem deafening then, so I can handle whatever I need to handle for now.